Suggestions for the Processing of Writs of Garnishment

B-204108: Published: Oct 6, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 6, 1981.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO responded to concerns raised by a constituent. The constituent indicated that the enactment of a Federal law, which allows State courts to garnishee wages of Federal employees, had resulted in additional attorneys being hired by the Federal Government to process writs of garnishment. The constituent, therefore, suggested that the Government routinely seek reimbursement of its costs of processing these writs. In garnishment actions in which it is necessary for the United States to be represented in court, the Department of Justice would represent the United States; therefore, GAO informally contacted Justice concerning the matter. GAO was told that generally it is not necessary for Justice to appear in garnishment cases. GAO was also advised that no additional attorneys had been hired to handle garnishment cases. However, there are administrative burdens imposed on the employing agency by a garnishment which include: reviewing the garnishment writ to see that it is valid on its face, a function usually performed by the agency's own attorneys; supplying the court with information regarding the employee's earnings and withholdings; and forwarding the garnisheed wages. While GAO did not know the cost of these administrative functions, Justice indicated that the relative cost of administration was being studied by the Office of Personnel Management to ascertain whether legislation should be suggested to Congress for a method of cost reimbursement.

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