Also known as wage execution. A court-ordered method of debt collection in which a portion of a person's salary is paid to a creditor. Often used to collect child support payments. The process by which a judgment creditor seizes money, which is owed to his judgment debtor, from a third party known as a garnishee.
Garnishment is a subcategory of attachment where the asset to be attached is in the hands of a third party. Meacham v. Meacham (1968) 262 Cal.App.2d 248, 251.
It is a well established rule that until a plaintiff collects upon a garnishment, the plaintiff may still seek satisfaction of the judgment against the defendant; the judgment against the defendant is reduced only by the amount actually received by the plaintiff. 'The judgment against [the defendant] is separate from, and independent of, that against the garnishees. It is true, both judgments are for the same demand, and if either is satisfied, the plaintiff would not be permitted to enforce the collection of the other. But until one is satisfied, the plaintiff's remedy on each is as ample as though no other judgment had been rendered . . . .' Price v. Higgins (1822) 11 Ky. [1 Litt.] 273, 274; see Sophia Wilkes Bldg. & Loan Assn. v. Rudloff (1944) 348 Pa. 477, 483 [35 A.2d 278]; Brown v. Somerville (1855) 8 Md. 444, 459 [''an attachment without satisfaction would not, of itself, prevent the plaintiff from resorting to his original debtor'']; Annot., 103 A.L.R. 839, 839-840 [citing Price and Brown]; 38 C.J.S., Garnishment section 293, p. 575.
A garnishee is regarded by the law as akin to a trustee, bound to protect the rights of all parties to the assets in the garnishee's possession. Agnew v. Cronin (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d 117, 127 [citing Hardy v. Hunt (1858) 11 Cal. 343, 350]; accord Murphy v. Merchants Nat. Bank of Mobile (1941) 240 Ala. 688, 694 [200 So. 894] [after service of the garnishment, the garnishee ''stands in the relation of a stakeholder, and is supposed to be indifferent as between the plaintiff and the defendant'']. Thus, the garnishee's alleged malfeasance is not imputed to the obligee.