I need to pay more attention to this blog. (And not just posting to it.)
A few weeks ago, I had a pretty deep legal discussion with a lawyer for a nearby county on a complex creditor rights question. And, after a few days of comparing research, she sent me a link to my own blog post on the exact same topic.
The bad news is that I spent many hours re-researching the issue. The good news is that I came to the same conclusion.
The issue was whether a Chancery Court in County A can issue an order and a levy to the Sheriff in County B to sell real property located in County B. And this wasn’t just a theoretical discussion–this was my own levy seeking to collect on a judgment.
The issue doesn’t come up much, and my concern was a lingering recollection that, in fact, some actions related to real property *are* limited to the county where the real property is located. That’s the “local action rule,” which requires those actions with a direct and undeniable connection to the land to be brought in that county (examples: title dispute / quiet title actions; detainer actions affecting possession of land; actions seeking money damages for trespass or injury to land). The way that Tennessee cases apply it, however, the local action rule speaks more to a “cause of action” that relates to the specific land at issue, not a general execution against the land.
In the end, here’s why Sheriff B can do it:
(1) Execution Sales of Realty are governed by Rule 69.07 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-5-101, and neither contains any county limitations. My review of Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-1-101 (and all around those statutes) did not reveal any limitation of the Sheriff’s ability to sell real property. We know that a local sheriff can enforce an out-of-county judgment on all other assets (wages/personal property like cars/bank accounts)—if there were a distinction as to real property, wouldn’t it be in those same statutes?
In fact, not only does Rule 69 not contain any exclusions, but it lumps real property in there with the other categories. For instance, in setting what can be levied against, Rule 69.05(1) says that “Property includes a judgment debtor’s realty, personalty, money, wages, corporate stock, choses in action (whether due or not), and court judgments.” (Note that there’s no distinction between the different types of assets.)
For personal property (which we know an out of county Sheriff can do), Rule 69.06 makes no distinction or exception as to the sheriff’s powers (or identification of which county’s sheriff can act).
For real property, Rule 69.07 (the separate rule for “Execution on Realty”) makes no distinction or exception related to which sheriff can take action. Instead, that Rule creates a system by which the creditor “may move” for an order of sale and then, “the sheriff” conducts the sale.
(2) The Jones v. Helms I wrote about last year remains valid.
In Jones, the creditor held a judgment from Gibson County and filed a Rule 69.07 motion in Gibson County for a sale order, and the Gibson County Court granted the request and ordered the Weakley County Sheriff to sell the land to pay the Sessions judgment. Rather than recite all the opinion, I’ll just direct you to last year’s post. (And, also, check out: Jones v. Helms, 2020 Tenn. App. LEXIS 517, *8-12, 2020 WL 6806372.)
One of the reasons that I maintain this blog to curate a list of useful opinions for my own practice. Next time, I’ll be sure to check in here first.