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How much is too much when subpoenaing financial records for a debtor's examination in small claims court?

Los Angeles, CA |

I will be filing an order to appear for a debtor examination and would like the debtor to provide documentation for any questions I plan to ask at the debtor's exam. As such, I plan to subpoena about 20 financial records of the debtor. The subpoena asks for records the debtor has and asks the debtor to makes various lists (rental properties, inheritances, etc.) Having never done this before, I'm worried that a judge may think that the request for such a large volume of information is too probing and deny my request.

1. Generally speaking, how much latitude are creditors given when subpoenaing this type of information?

2. Are there any areas to stay away from?

3. If a judge wants to exclude a certain item subpoenaed, can he exclude that one item, or must he reject the whole subpoena?

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Attorney answers 1


Many courts have a standard form for this sort of thing. You may want to dig around your states court website.

In general, if you keep in mind that the goal of a post judgment debtor's exam is to find assets that can garnished "now," (especially in the small claims context) the question answers it self. Meaning, you ask about "current" items. So, you want to know where the debtor banks, but you don't ask for 3 years of bank statements. You should also be familiar with your state's exemptions, so that way you don't waste time asking about items that are almost always exempt (e.g. household goods, electronics, etc.). As such, a typical debtor's exam is not going to ask for a list of furniture etc., but you would likely ask about vehicles, recreational vehicles, firearms etc.

Ultimately, the goal is to get at "cash." So, at the end of the day, you really don't care about the debtor's stuff (crap), because the cost to you (in both time and money) to seize, store, and sell, is generally not worth it. So, you want to know where the debtor banks, has brokerage accounts, his employer; basically, any assets that is either cash or easily converted to cash.