Friday, March 11, 2016

Garnishment Order Reversed

U.S. v. Martinez, 2015 WL 9009626 (12/16/15) (n.M.) (Published) - the 10th reverses the district court's grant of a writ of garnishment of Mr. Martinez's retirement funds. The government became unhappy with the pace of Mr. Martinez's payments towards the $2.7 million restitution amount. So it sought to garnish his two retirement funds. But the 10th holds the government cannot garnish when a defendant doesn't owe any money. It can't enforce beyond the payment terms of the restitution order. The district court had ordered Mr. Martinez to make monthly payments of 25% of his net income. The reason he didn't pay much was because he had no monthly income. The government never claimed he was in arrears. The 10th stresses it's up to the district court, not the government, to decide how a defendant is to pay restitution. And the district court did not order the restitution to be paid immediately. Orally the court ordered Mr. Martinez to pay a fixed amount of 25% of his disposable income. This overrode the written order of "no less than"25%. The 10th also notes the schedule of payments section of the written judgment where the court checked the box indicating the restitution was not immediately due. The 10th goes so far as to indicate that, if a court provides for instalment payments, restitution is not due immediately. The 10th rejects the government's claim that it can garnish even if no money's owed. That would contravene the specific and detailed scheme Congress laid out for district courts to determine how restitution is to be paid, whether in-kind or installments or both, based on the defendants' financial situation. The 10th distinguishes and/or disagrees with a 5th Circuit case, going to the extent of looking at the district court records in that case to see what the judgment in that case said. The 10th concludes either the 5th Circuit decided differently because it dealt with a different judgment or because it didn't consider the comprehensiveness of the statutory scheme.