Torjesen v. Mansdorf

Though the trial court erroneously proceeded under the Enforcement of Judgments Law rather than the Probate Code in adjudicating rights under a judgment creditor’s levy after the judgment debtor’s death, the ensuing judgment could not be collaterally attacked based on that legal error since the trial court had fundamental jurisdiction to enter the judgment.  T obtained a judgment against M.  He levied on M’s property, but only after M had died.  G filed a third party claim to the levied property, and T responded with a petition under the Enforcement of Judgments Law (“EJL”) to invalidate G’s claim.  Despite the fact that the EJL and the Probate Code both clearly provide that after a judgment debtor’s death, the Probate Code, not the EJL, governs enforcement of a judgment against the decedent’s estate, the trial court entered judgment in T’s favor on his EJL petition.  After the time to appeal that judgment had expired, G moved to vacate the judgment.  Held, the motion to vacate was properly denied.  Though the trial court had acted in excess of its jurisdiction in proceeding under the EJL and would have been reversed had G filed a timely appeal, the trial court had fundamental jurisdiction over the parties and the dispute and so its judgment was merely voidable, not void, and could not be collaterally attacked after the time to appeal had expired.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Division 4 (Willhite, J.); July 5, 2016; 2016 WL 3611562

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