Leven v. Frey

Decision Date11 October 2007
Docket NumberNo. 41716.,41716.
PartiesRobert LEVEN, Appellant, v. Herbert FREY and Cy Yehros, Respondents.
CourtNevada Supreme Court

Robert Leven, Las Vegas, in Proper Person.

Deaner, Deaner, Scann, Malan & Larsen and Brent A. Larsen, Las Vegas, for Respondents.

Flangas Law Office and Leo P. Flangas, Las Vegas; Leonard Schwartzer, Las Vegas, for Amici Curiae Leo Flangas and Louise Ruiz.



By the Court, HARDESTY, J.:

This proper person appeal presents us with an opportunity to clarify the proper procedure for judgment renewal under NRS 17.214 and to address whether judgment creditors are required to strictly comply with the statute's requirements. We conclude that the statute requires the timely filing of an affidavit, timely recording of the affidavit (if the judgment to be renewed was recorded), and timely service of the affidavit to successfully renew a judgment and that these requirements must be complied with strictly. Since, in this case, respondents did not strictly comply with all of these requirements, the district court improperly denied appellant's motion to declare void the previous judgment, which had expired. We therefore reverse the district court's order and remand this matter to the district court.


After appellant Robert Leven, a one-time condominium owner, and other plaintiffs sued their condominium owners' association, its board of directors, officers, property managers, insurance carriers, and legal counsel, and the condominium developers, the district court adjudicated all parties' claims and entered a judgment against Leven and the other plaintiffs. The original judgment, filed on October 25, 1996, and recorded on October 28, 1996, awarded attorney fees and costs to respondents Cy Yehros, a general contractor, and his business partner, Herbert Frey (collectively Frey).

Between 1996 and 2002, Frey unsuccessfully tried to collect payment from Leven, and as the judgment was due to expire on October 25, 2002,2 Frey began judgment renewal proceedings in October 2002.

Renewing a judgment generally requires a judgment creditor to file an affidavit of renewal within ninety days of the judgment's expiration and then record and serve the judgment renewal within three days of the affidavit's filing.3 Here, Frey timely filed his affidavit of judgment renewal on October 18, 2002. However, Frey did not serve the affidavit of renewal until October 30, 2002, and did not record the affidavit until November 4, 2002, well beyond the three-day requirement for recording and service.

As a consequence, Leven moved the court to declare void the expired judgment, arguing that Frey failed to strictly comply with NRS 17.214 because his recording and service were late and, therefore, the judgment was not properly renewed. Frey opposed the motion, arguing that the delay in recording and service, caused by his secretary's vacation, amounted to excusable neglect and oversight. According to Frey, he substantially complied with the statute and thus successfully renewed the judgment. The district court denied Leven's motion and concluded that Frey's delay in recording and service did not result in any prejudice to Leven. Leven has appealed.


We review issues of statutory construction de novo.4 Similarly, whether a statute's procedural requirements must be complied with strictly or only substantially is a question of law subject to our plenary review.5 Applying these de novo standards, we first discuss what is required to successfully renew the judgment under NRS 17.214 and then address NRS 17.214's required level of compliance.

Requirements for judgment renewal under NRS 17.214

Under NRS 17.214, timely filing an affidavit, timely recording (if the judgment being renewed was recorded), and timely service are required to successfully renew a judgment.6 NRS 17.214 expressly refers to these three aspects of judgment renewal — affidavit filing, recording, and service:

1. A judgment creditor or his successor in interest may renew a judgment which has not been paid by:

(a) Filing an affidavit with the clerk of the court where the judgment is entered and docketed, within 90 days before the date the judgment expires by limitation. . . .

. . . .

(b) If the judgment is recorded, recording the affidavit of renewal in the office of the county recorder in which the original judgment is filed within 3 days after the affidavit of renewal is filed pursuant to paragraph (a).

2. The filing of the affidavit renews the judgment to the extent of the amount shown due in the affidavit.

3. The judgment creditor or his successor in interest shall notify the judgment debtor of the renewal of the judgment by sending a copy of the affidavit of renewal by certified mail, return receipt requested, to him at his last known address within 3 days after filing the affidavit.

Under the statute's express terms, then, a judgment may be renewed by filing an affidavit with the district court within ninety days before the judgment's expiration, recording the affidavit within three days of filing, and serving the affidavit on the debtor within three days of filing.

Generally, when a statute's language is plain and its meaning clear, the courts will apply that plain language.7 Here, NRS 17.214's mandatory requirements of filing, recording, and service of the affidavit are plainly set forth and must be followed for judgment renewal.

In particular, NRS 17.214(1)(a)'s requirement, that an affidavit of renewal be filed with the court clerk within 90 days before the judgment expires by limitation, is unambiguous. An action on a judgment or its renewal must be commenced within six years under NRS 11.190(1)(a); thus a judgment expires by limitation in six years. The requirement that an affidavit be filed within ninety days of the expiration of this six-year period provides a clear first step in the procedure for renewing judgments.

Similarly, NRS 17.214(1)(b)'s recordation requirement is clear. If the judgment to be renewed is recorded, the affidavit of renewal must be recorded in the county recorder's office within three days after the affidavit of renewal is filed. The reasoning behind this requirement is clear when it is read together with a related statute, NRS 17.150(2). NRS 17.150(2) creates a lien on a debtor's real property in a particular county when a judgment is recorded in that county; this lien remains in place for six years from the date that the judgment was docketed and continues automatically "each time the judgment . . . is renewed."8 If a previously recorded judgment could be renewed under NRS 17.214 without recordation of the renewal affidavit, then the lien created by NRS 17.150(2) would continue without any recorded notice that the judgment has been renewed and that the lien therefore remains in effect. Instead, requiring recordation of the renewal affidavit for the renewal of a recorded judgment ensures that anyone performing title searches will know that the lien continues.

Further, NRS 17.214(3)'s requisite, that the affidavit of renewal be served on the judgment debtor within three days of filing, is also plain and its meaning clear. Such notice is a necessary part of any statutory procedure involving renewed rights under a judgment.9

Unlike NRS 17.214's provisions for affidavit filing, recordation and notice, however, the meaning of subsection 2 of the statute which pertains to the effect of filing the affidavit, is not plain and unambiguous. Consequently, we must examine its meaning more closely.

NRS 17.214(2) states that "[t]he filing of the affidavit renews the judgment to the extent of the amount shown due in the affidavit." This language is susceptible to two different interpretations: either, as argued by amici curiae, the affidavit's filing alone renews the judgment, or the filing of the affidavit establishes only the judgment amount a creditor can collect from a debtor after the judgment is renewed. Since this language is capable of more than one reasonable interpretation, it is ambiguous,10 and we necessarily look to legislative history and our rules of statutory interpretation.11

Legislative history

NRS 17.214 was enacted in 1985 and amended in 1995.12 The original, 1985 version directed the judgment creditor to file an affidavit of renewal and provided that the affidavit filing "renew[ed] the judgment to the extent of the amount shown due in the affidavit."13 The legislative history indicates that NRS 17.214's enactment was intended to establish a procedure for judgment renewal to allow judgment creditors additional time to collect payment after the original judgment expired.14 The 1995 amendment, among other changes, added a recording requirement to the statute, dividing subsection 1 into (a) "filing" and (b) "recording,"15 but it did not amend subsection 2's statement that the "filing of the affidavit renews the judgment to the extent of the amount shown due in the affidavit."16 The 1995 amendment focused on requiring that affidavits be recorded to ensure that real property liens are apparent in title searches.17 Although this amendment did not specifically address the meaning of NRS 17.214(2)'s provision regarding the effect of the affidavit's filing, the amendment demonstrates that the affidavit's filing, alone, does not renew a previously recorded judgment, as recordation is also necessary.

Statutory construction

When construing an ambiguous statutory provision, this court determines the meaning of the words used in a statute by "examining the context and the spirit of the law or the causes which induced the Legislature to enact it. The entire subject matter and policy may be involved as an interpretive aid."18 Thus, in interpreting a statute, this court considers the statute's multiple legislative provisions as a whole.19 Additionally, statutory interpretation should not render any part of a statute meaningless, and...

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