When Civil Judgments Go Beyond Monetary Compensation

Your average, run-of-the-mill civil judgment is little more than recognition of a legitimate debt the defendant owes to the plaintiff. And in such cases, the judgment amount is determined by combining what is owed with court costs and any additional expenses incurred by the plaintiff. But guess what? Civil judgments can go beyond monetary compensation.

There are times when civil judgments also include specific orders targeting defendants. A recent case out of Idaho provides the perfect example. In that case, the judge handed down a monetary fine but also permanently barred the defendant from doing business in Idaho.

Civil Court vs. Criminal Court

Cases like the one out of Idaho illustrate some of the differences between civil and criminal court. The defendant in the case, Eli B. Karabell, actually broke the law. For whatever reason, Idaho State Attorney General chose to take the case to civil court.

In criminal court, the defendant would have been prosecuted under multiple criminal statutes. A conviction would have resulted in some sort of sentence as provided by law. But because the case went to civil court, the result was different.

Rather than being found guilty of committing a crime, the court found that the defendant improperly billed for services that were neither rendered nor requested. The court had quite a bit of leeway in determining the outcome, which would not have been the case in criminal court.

Barred from Doing Business

For the record, Karabell decided to bill Idaho Senator Mark Harris some $480 million for campaign and lobbying efforts on the Senator’s behalf. Having never requested the services nor actually receiving them, Harris refused to pay the bill. He also instructed Karabell to stop contacting him, which is his legal right.

Under federal law, Harris’s request for no more contact should have been honored. But Karabell persisted. He even employed the services of a collection agency and went so far as to submit a modified invoice with Harris’s forged signature on it.

Fortunately, he did not get away with it. The court has ordered him to pay in excess of $10,000 in civil penalties to the State Attorney General’s office. Karabell is also prohibited from billing any Idaho companies, organizations, or entities for any work done on their behalf.

Judgments Are Case-By-Case

The Karabell case is only unique in terms of its details. It is not often that a political lobbyist has the audacity to bill a sitting senator hundreds of millions of dollars for services that were never performed or requested. And yet the case is not unique in either its motivation or outcome.

As for permanently barring Karabell from doing business in Idaho, that is something the court determined was appropriate for this case. Such a determination would not necessarily be made in a similar case.

Salt Lake City, Utah’s Judgment Collectors, a collection agency that specializes in judgments, says that courts look at civil cases based on their own merits. Similar cases can have different outcomes if just one or two circumstances are different. There are fewer absolutes in civil court as compared to criminal court.

In this particular case, the court felt it appropriate to go above and beyond monetary compensation. That makes sense. A $10,800 fine pales in comparison to a fraudulent $480 million bill. The court found it especially egregious that the defendant persisted even after being sued. Thus, the decision to prevent him from ever doing business in Idaho again.

Sometimes civil judgments involve monetary compensation only. Other times they go above and beyond money to include special orders against defendants. Now you know.

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