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Old Judgments Article

For How Long is a Legal Judgments Good for?

In Illinois a legal judgment may survive for years and could create all kinds of credit issues for the unwary business owner or consumer. Although judgments have an enforcement time limit of 7 years from the date of their entry, Illinois law allows a judgment to be enforced for up to 27 years after the date the judgment was entered. Illinois business lawyers are aware of the various ways a judgment may be active to protect their clients.

Illinois law governs the time limit for enforcing judgment and states “no judgment shall be enforced after the expiration of 7 years from the time the same is rendered.”1 The same statute allows the 7-year limitation period to be extended “upon the revival of the [judgment] by a proceeding.”2

Illinois law provides “a judgment may be revived by filing a petition to revive the judgment in the 7th year after its entry, or in the 7th year after its last revival, or in the 20th year after its entry, or at any other time within 20 years after its entry if the judgment becomes dormant and by serving the petition and entering a court order for revival.”3 Essentially, a judgement becomes dormant if not enforced or revived within 7 years of its entry, and may be revived at a variety of times within a 20-year period from the entry of the original judgment.

The revival of a judgment cannot occur before the 7th year after its entry. During the 7th year, the judgment may be revived if the creditor files a petition to revive the judgment in the case in which the original judgment was entered. The petition, if granted, will extend the judgment’s enforcement time-period an additional 7 years. This type of judgment revival is not limited to a single use. A judgment may be revived indefinitely, if the creditor petitions the court for the judgments revival in the 7th year after its last revival.

Older (“Dormant”) Judgments Can Be Revived

Although Chicago business lawyers have a duty of due diligence to their clients, encumbering caseloads and other important obligations may cause the most diligent of counselors to let the enforcement period of judgments slip without petitioning the court for their revival. Fortunately, Illinois provides an incredibly benevolent recourse to judgments that are no longer enforceable. If a judgment is not enforced within the statutory 7-year limit, instead of being extinguished, the judgment becomes “dormant.” A dormant judgment cannot be enforced, but it does not extinguish. Although it may not be enforced, a dormant judgment can exist up to 20 years after the original judgment’s date of entry.

Effectively, if the original judgment is not enforced or revived within 7 years of its entry, the judgment becomes and may remain dormant for an additional 13 years. Unlike an enforceable judgment, a dormant judgment may be revived at any time within 20 years after the entry of the original judgment. If revived, the formerly dormant judgment may be enforced within 7 years after its revival.

It is important to note when a judgment is revived, the revival does not toll the 20-year statute of limitations on revival of the judgment4. Caselaw in Illinois has stated a revived judgment does not stop or restart the statute of limitations, once 20 years has elapsed from the entry of the judgment, a dormant judgment is no longer viable and cannot be revived.5 Further, the procedure to revive a dormant judgment must comply with the diligence requirement of Illinois Sup. Ct. R. 103(b). In addition to requiring a petition for revival be filed with the court, the petitioner must also give personal notice to the parties involved “to prevent surprise on the party owing the dormant judgment.”6

Illinois law provides ample opportunity for Illinois business lawyers to assist in the enforcement of old judgments for at least 27 years after the date the judgment was entered.7 Although caselaw has yet to encounter such a fact pattern, a judgement, if properly revived every 7 years may carry on indefinitely. Illinois law provides an exceptionally lenient period for which a judgment can revived, even if the time-period of which the judgment can be enforced has elapsed.

If you are a business owner or consumer who has had a judgment entered against them, you should take steps to protect your credit and your business by consulting with experienced Chicago business lawyers who are familiar with the rules. Contact business litigation attorney Misty Cygan at 847.823.9030 Ext: 234 or misty@bellas-wachowski.com for assistance.

Authored by Attorney Michael Rizo

  1. 735 ILCS 5/12-108
  2. Id
  3. 735 ILCS 5/2-1602
  4. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Brunsmann, 77 Ill. App. 2d 219.
  5. Burman v. Snyder, 2014 Il App (1st) 130772; Brunsmann, 77 Ill. App. 2d 219
  6. Department of Public Aid ex rel. McGinnis v. McGinnis, 268 Ill. App. 3d 123, 129.
  7. Burman, 2014 Il App (1st) 130772