Would-Be Juror Can’t Volunteer for the Role

<i> B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life</i>

Q I would like to serve my community as well as do my duty to myself and country. I think that the best way is for me to sit on a jury. I think it is shameful how people want to avoid jury duty. Is there any way I can volunteer for jury duty?


Santa Ana

A You are to be commended for your willingness to serve as a juror. Unfortunately, the jury commissioner in Orange County is required to randomly select potential jurors’ names from lists provided by the registrar of voters and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hopefully, your name will someday be selected.


Q In 1982 we filed for bankruptcy. Is it true that our file with TRW will be cleared after 7 years? If not, what can we do?

We have not incurred any new debts in all these years but wish to make a major purchase this summer.


Huntington Beach


A I am assuming from your letter that your bankruptcy petition was heard by the Bankruptcy Court and that it granted you relief from your creditors. If this is the case, the 7-year period does not apply to you.

California allows consumer credit-reporting agencies to list bankruptcies over a 14-year period, while the federal law’s period is 10 years. A state may enact a law with stricter requirements than that of the federal government. You should contact TRW to determine whether that agency is using the standards of the stricter California law.

Your letter mentions that you are planning a major purchase. If your purchase means a credit transaction involving a principal amount of $50,000 or more, TRW is not limited to any time periods for its reporting under either the federal or California law.

You should be aware that both California and the federal law allow consumers to dispute any item of information on the report. If you wish to do so, you should contact TRW, which would then be required to investigate the matter. At the end of its investigation, TRW must then either correct the item or inform you as to why it feels the item as reported is correct. If you still disagree, you are entitled to add to your report a statement of no more than 100 words, which would be prepared by you with the assistance of the agency.

A previously published letter from K.M. inquired as to how to protect her salary from being held accountable to her spouse’s ex-wife for alimony payments. Paul Ashby and David Salisbury of the Family Law Unit of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach provided additional information regarding this question. It reads, in part, as follows:

“Community property is liable for the premarriage separate debts of a spouse. The statute says that one unique type of community property (i.e., earnings) is not so liable as long as it retains its character as “earnings” by being placed into a segregated bank account. This is not the same as saying that the earnings in a bank account are not community property.

“Our fear is that people would conclude that they could create separate property out of earnings by simply placing them in a separate bank account. Imagine their surprise when, on divorce, the bank account is ordered to be divided despite the title on the account.

“Additionally, the bank account must stand in the name of the wage-earner spouse only. If the debtor spouse’s name is on the account--e.g., husband and wife as joint tenants--that account is liable for the debt. The debtor spouse must have no power of signature over the account.”


I would again like to emphasize the wisdom of consulting an attorney when dealing with any property determinations arising from the possibility of marital dissolution.