June 2019: Ask A Lawyer with Kallie Dixon
In our tenth installment of “Ask a Lawyer” we featured questions from Ian Alden.
Read it here
QUESTION: : I am a pharmacist. I disclosed to my employer that I had in fact recently declared bankruptcy. I was concerned that creditors might be reaching out to my employer regarding attempts to collect on my discharged debts. I felt like self-reporting this information would be better as transparency and honesty with my employer was always my priority. In the conversation with my employer, I indicated that a contributing factor to the bankruptcy (along with my substantial student loan obligations) was the fact that I gamble (legally) regularly and had in recent months been rather unlucky. Not long after my conversation with my employer a professional compliant was filed against me. The complaint indicates that I am partaking in reckless behavior that can open me up to bad/desperate decision making. My personal bankruptcy was sited as evidence to support the claim. While I admit some of my personal financial decisions might be questionable, they were my decisions to make. They have nothing to do with my professionalism or ability to perform my job. Aside from being deeply embarrassed by the complaint, I of course feel betrayed by my employer whom I feel confident filed the complaint. My question is do I need to even defend myself against such a complaint? I want to simply state that the charge is without merit since bankruptcy does not = unprofessionalism or bad behavior.
ANSWER: It is unfortunate that your decision to be open and forthcoming with your employer was used against you in a punitive manner. A complaint filed with your employer is not the same as a complaint filed with your professional licensing board. A complaint filed with your employer will not necessarily result in a complaint filed with your professional licensing board. However, it is nearly universal that any individual or entity, including an employer, is obligated to file a report with the relevant professional licensing board when it is suspected that a violation of that board’s rules or regulations has occurred. You must take the matter very seriously. Although responding to the allegations feels like an unwarranted intrusion into your personal life over matters which it seems as though no licensing authority has the right to inquire, the allegations do have the potential to cause you harm. Whether you are a pharmacist, a doctor, or another licensed professional, many licensing boards have the authority to consider matters of a personal nature when deciding to grant a license application or discipline an existing license. For instance, the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy is authorized to discipline a licensee who “is guilty of gross immorality” which is not defined or explicitly limited to professional conduct and could conceivably be interpreted to include personal conduct outside the scope of employment. NMAC § 126.96.36.199. Additionally, an “impaired pharmacist” is defined as a pharmacist who is unable to practice pharmacy with reasonable skill, competency or safety to the public because of mental illness. An inferred gambling addiction could potentially be viewed as a mental illness. Even if the allegations do not form a basis for discipline, you should provide a thorough and considered response so that you can provide the board with sufficient information to make that determination as opposed to leaving the board with questions with which it feels obligated to follow up, potentially by starting the formal disciplinary process. In this particular instance, even though the question made no mention of substance abuse, a board inquiry could infer from the complaint that you have an underlying, undisclosed substance abuse problem contributing to the issues that were brought before it. Thus, it would be wise to address and alleviate that concern. In short, there are many pitfalls in which you could find yourself if your response is flippant and does not demonstrate that there is, in fact, no merit to the allegations.
QUESTION: I won a judgement against a restaurant that never paid me for the website I created for them. I don’t have a lot of money and I am self-employed so I represented myself in court. The case was pretty straight forward. I did the work and never got paid. The problem is, now that I have the judgement, how do I get paid? A check for $8000.00 didn’t magically materialize in my mail box the day after I won my court case. I have looked into putting a lien on the restaurant property itself, but all the lien forms I have come across to fill out are mechanics liens. That doesn’t really help me much in my situation. The restaurant is owned by an LLC., so I don’t think I can put a lien on the owner’s home… or can I? Obviously, $8000.00 is a lot of money to me and my business. Suggestions?
ANSWER:You can ask the court clerk to issue a Transcript of Judgment. It is a form you can get at the courthouse. The transcript of judgment form has boxes you fill in with the name of the judgment creditor (you), the name of the judgment debtor (the restaurant), and details regarding the amount of the judgment, interest accruing on the judgment, and any payments made toward the judgment. Once the court clerk issues the Transcript of Judgment to you, you can bring it to the clerk of whatever county in New Mexico in which the judgment debtor has real property. The Transcript of Judgment, once filed with a county clerk, is now a judgment lien against all real property the judgment debtor owns in that county. Actually foreclosing the lien and getting your money is another issue, and creditors with judgment liens often wait until the debtor tries to sell property subject to the judgment lien. At that time, any buyer would require the debtor to pay off the lien before or at closing.
Another possible avenue is to ask the court for a Writ of Execution. A Writ of Execution is an order from the court directing the sheriff to go and take non-exempt property from the judgment debtor to pay the judgment. There are a few hoops to jump through to obtain a Writ of Execution, such as giving the debtor notice and an opportunity to claim property that would be exempt from execution. However, if the judgment debtor is a business and not an individual, it is usually easier for the sheriff to collect property.
By doing some post-judgment discovery, you can find out where the judgment debtor has bank accounts and then obtain a Writ of Garnishment. This would require you to subpoena the debtor to appear for a deposition, at which you should ask him to bring bank statements of all of his accounts. Once you know the banks at which the debtor has accounts, you can obtain a Writ of Garnishment, which is basically a court order instructing the bank to pay you from the debtor’s accounts.
Who is Kallie Dixon?
By applying her legal expertise and unique professional background Kallie Dixon finds the best possible legal solutions for each of her clients. Ms. Dixon has successfully handled a range of legal issues in New Mexico from business law and professional liability disputes to personal injury and criminal defense cases. An experienced courtroom lawyer, Ms. Dixon is also adept at presenting a powerful case in front of a judge and jury.
While her legal experience is the heart of her practice, Ms. Dixon’s personal, compassionate approach helps her establish strong connections with her clients. She’s committed to working with all of her clients directly and is with them every step of the way.
Ms. Dixon is particularly adept at handling medical malpractice and professional licensure cases because she has nearly a decade of experience working as a licensed practical nurse in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. She understands the work environments, systems, and challenges medical professionals face every day and uses that knowledge to successfully litigate professional licensure and medical malpractice cases. She continues to hold her nursing license so she’s up-to-date on the medical industry.
Ms. Dixon earned her undergraduate degree in agricultural economics from New Mexico State University in 2001. After graduating from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2004, Ms. Dixon worked at two New Mexico law firms where she earned valuable experience in business law, medical malpractice, professional licensure, and more.
Here's a short video of Kallie talking about the steps you should take when you receive a complaint from your professional license board.
In addition to Kallie, Slingshot has an awesome team of legal professionals who can provide legal services across the United States including Larry Donahue, Donald Kochersberger, Timothy Mortimer, Alicia McConnell, Kameron Kramer, David Richter, Ian Alden, Ross Perkal, and many more. Our team is ready to answer questions that are important to you.
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Ask a Lawyer is a twice per month open to the public legal question and answer session with real lawyers. We want to be able to provide real people answers to real questions. We partnered with the Albuquerque Journal's Business Outlook to provide everyone a way to reach out and have their questions answered. Do you have a legal question you need to have answered? Email us at [email protected] to have your question answered. We review all the questions that come in and provide answers to the ones that are most important to you anonymously.
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