COLLECTING A JUDGMENT USING A KEEPER LEVY

By Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon of Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon posted on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

            Welcome to our  Post Judgment Collection blog! For my first post I thought I'd tell a story about using one of the many tools a collection attorney has to enforce a judgment. 

Early in my career I obtained a judgment for client against a restaurant and bar in La Jolla. I had heard of a keeper levy but I had never done one or seen it happen before. A keeper levy is a type of levy where the judgment creditor instructs the sheriff to go to a running business and take all of the money from the business for a set period of time. This is often confused with a till tap. A till tap is similar in that the Sheriff comes and empties the cash register but does not stay to continue to collect like a keeper. While the keeper is installed the debtor cannot take credit or debit card. I prepared the Sheriff's instructions so that they would install the keeper on a Friday afternoon so I could go to the bar while the keeper was installed and in place.  

I left my office and headed down to La Jolla. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw the Sheriff's deputies go into the bar to install the keeper.  I watched as the deputies went behind the counter and began to discuss the matter with the establishment's employees. After a few minutes two of the three deputies emerged from the back of the restaurant and walked out the door.   As they walked out the door I followed them and introduced myself as the attorney for the judgment creditor and thanked them for promptly installing the keeper.  They proceeded to tell me that when they got to the back of the restaurant they encountered a safe which was bolted to the floor.  They told the employees to open it.  The employees refused to do so.  The Sheriff unbolted the safe from the floor and advised the employees that if the judgment was not satisfied by the time the keeper ran out they would be taking the safe with them.  

Almost immediately after I finished speaking to the deputies I received a very upset phone call from the establishment's owner.   She was appalled that we had installed the keeper.  She asked what it would take for me to get the keeper removed.    I told her that the keeper would only be removed if the judgment was paid in full by a cashier's check (the judgment was approximately $8,000.00).  She did not like that answer and hung up on me.  Ten minutes later she called again offering a payment plan but I was very clear with her that the keeper would only be removed on full payment.  It took two or three more phone calls attempting to bargain with me for her to realize the sheriff wasn't leaving her bar on a Friday afternoon unless she paid the judgment in full. 

The interesting thing was that I was sitting in the restaurant eating my lunch while this was going on.  There was a mild panic in the restaurant when their servers announced that they could not accept credit cards for the time being.  The reason they couldn't accept the cards was not disclosed to the patrons.   When I finished my lunch I paid my bill with cash (I was prepared since I knew it was coming).  I went up to my server and told them what was going on, apologized for the inconvenience and told them that I thought it would be over soon.   I left the restaurant after my lunch and was notified shortly thereafter by the Sheriff's department that the judgment was paid in full.