Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.
Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University’s Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.
Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.
One of our most frequently asked questions is “what’s the current money judgment interest rate?” The federal post-judgment rate is easy to find in simple chart form. In Michigan, the state rate is statutory and changes twice a year. The rate is published in various legal newspapers and journals as well as available at the State bar website , from Michigan Lawyers Weekly, and the State Department of Treasury. We wondered if other states provided like access to these rates and decided to find out for ourselves.
First stop, our own LLRX.com’s Zimmerman’s Research Guide: Interest Rate on Judgments. A recommendation to search a particular state’s statutes using the terms “interest” and “judgment” is rebuffed. We know that ploy from our own statutes. It’s a tease. The statute prescribes the rate based on treasury notes and they’re always changing. What about the actual rate, one I don’t have to calculate myself? In a nice, neat little chart.
Next stop, Google. If our great State provides access to actual rates, others must too. Go with what you know. You may want to check the spelling of judgment or use “judgement” as an alternate because it may be spelled either way. A search on “money judgment” interest is not particularly helpful. Seems as if Michigan is in the minority with the use of that term.
So, we think of alternate terms. “Judgment Interest” is workable, but with too many results, it must be limited. There are only two states rates within the first dozen results – Nebraska (Judgment Interest) and Alaska ( How to Determine Pre-and Post- Judgment Interest Rates). The others are federal rates. We’re not particularly interested in the federal rates, we want to know about the other states.
So, let’s try to eliminate the federal references. Let’s look at our results and see exactly what we’re picking up. The search: judgment interest -sites:uscourts.gov. Hmm, still too many. Our results from the previous search specified post or pre-judgment, so let’s look at post-judgment interest -sites:uscourts.gov. We still have Alaska, but we’ve lost Nebraska, because of the use of “post”. We’ve gained New Jersey (Post-Judgment Interest Rate for 2002) as well as references to several state codes and legislative materials. We’ve also picked up Post Judgment Interest, Prejudgment Interest and Punitive Damages, United States and Canada 2001, a tabular summary of interest rates in the U.S. and Canada. The good news: it’s all in one place, alphabetical by State providing whether interest is allowed/type of action/insurability, date of accrual and the rate of interest. Separate charts for post-judgment, prejudgment and punitive damages make life even easier. The bad news: no statutory or case references and although titled “2001”, no indication of revision date. So, be careful what you ask for, we found our nice, neat little chart but it’s lacking authority.
If we were truly looking to do a state by state survey of these rates, we’d check other sources as well as performing a quick and dirty web search. Our old standby, Martindale-Hubbell Law Digest, does not come through for us this time. Some states reference judgment interest under the topic Debtor-Creditor but the coverage is inconsistent and not specific enough. The same could hold true for a Cornell’s Topical Index: State Statutes on the Internet. A multi-state search of state statutes via Lexis, Westlaw or the web may or may not be complete depending on your search terms and the vagaries of legislative language. In addition to statutes, we might search secondary or treatise materials, law reviews, journals as well as legal periodicals indices. A recent article in the Hawaii Bar Journal, POST-JUDGMENT INTEREST: A COMPOUND PROBLEM? by David C. Farmer (July, 2000) provides conclusions from a survey of the statutes of the 50 states, but does not provide any actual state data (such as statutory citation or actual rates) for states other than Hawaii. A bibliography such as Subject Compilations of State Laws (C. Boast and C. Nyberg) or National Survey of State Laws (Gale Group) may also assist you in your search.
Hopefully your need for state pre or post judgment interest rates will be specific to an individual state and you can try Google for the state name combined with the type of interest rate you seek. Another option is to try that state’s bar association or appellate court’s web page to determine if the interest rate is clearly displayed. Our neighbors to the north also affix interest to judgments so if you are enforcing a judgment in Canada you may want to run similar searches with the particular province name.
|Links Mentioned in this Article|
Federal Post-Judgment Rate
Federal Post-Judgement Rate – Simple Chart Form
Michigan State Rate
Michigan State Bar Website
State Department of Treasury
Interest Rate on Judgments
How to Determine Pre-and Post-Judgment Interest Rates
Post-Judgment Interest Rate for 2002
Cornell’s Topical Index: State Statutes on the Internet