Once a judgment has been won, the judgment creditor (“creditor”) has the option to to file a Supplementary Process action against the defendant, now the judgment debtor (“debtor”). Small claim actions have a “built in” process very similar to Supplementary Process. The judgment debtor in a Supplementary Process action can be a natural person, a corporation, a trust, a society, a partnership, an incorporated or an unincorporated association or any other legal entity.
Supplementary Process in Massachusetts is governed by the statute Chapter 224 of the General Laws. Unless the judgment is from the Housing Court, the venue for Supplementary Process is the District Court or the Boston Municipal Court, regardless of the judgment amount. The Housing Court hears Supplementary Process actions to regarding judgments it enters. The action is filed in the court of the judicial district in which the judgment debtor resides, or conducts their business. If the judgment debtor does not reside, or have a usual place of business in Massachusetts, the action can be filed within the judicial district where the judgment entered.
Supplementary Process is commenced by filing an application with the court, along with the original execution or a certified copy of the judgment. The court will issue a summons to the creditor for service that orders the debtor to appear, so the court can examine their property and ability to pay. The creditor is responsible for having the debtor served in the required manner by an officer qualified to serve civil process, such as a Constable.
At the court hearing the creditor, or their attorney, will usually approach the debtor to informally discuss their assets and employment in order to determine their ability to either pay in full or over time. After that discussion, the parties may agree that the action be continued or a payment order be entered by the court. Both parties reserve the right to have a decision made by the court if an agreement cannot be reached.
In the event an issue progresses to the court, the creditor may call witnesses, who may appear voluntarily, or by subpoena to testify. The creditor has the burden of providing sufficient evidence to the court for finding that the debtor has non-exempt assets, or the ability to pay. The court may order the debtor to produce the property or make payments to the creditor. A debtor can be held in contempt if it fails to comply with the court’s order.