When a party obtains a judgment in civil litigation, he or she may convert that judgment into a lien against real property by recording an abstract of judgment. Code of Civil Procedure Section 697.340. The recordation of such an abstract of judgment creates a lien against all real property owned by the judgment debtor in the county in which the abstract was recorded. The judgment, and the judgment lien, are good for ten years, and they can be renewed, for another ten years, when they are about to expire. The lien attaches, not just to all property owned by the debtor, but to all property acquired by the debtor, in that county, during the life of the lien.

Judgment liens ordinarily are paid, when the property is sold or re-financed. There is no legal rule requiring the lien to be paid at that time, but, as a practical matter, clean title cannot be passed to a new owner, and no sane lender will re-finance, unless the judgment lien is paid. The creditor may also foreclose his or her judgment lien, prior to that time.