Cowboy stands at the blackboardWe have been asked whether a writ of execution can help a client get paid.   The short answer is, yes, a writ of execution can help you get paid sometimes.   This article talks about what a writ of execution is, when you can get it and how, sometimes, it can help you get paid.

What is a Writ of Execution?

A writ of execution is an order in a civil case.  It is made after a money judgment has been obtained against a defendant.   A writ of execution orders the sheriff of a county to take property owned by the defendant (or the judgment debtor).   The property can then be turned over to the plaintiff or, in some cases, sold.   The money from the property that is sold then is turned over to the plaintiff (or the judgment creditor).

When Can You Get a Writ of Execution?

You can get a writ of execution after you have sued and obtained a money judgment against a defendant.  You or your attorney submits an application to the clerk of the court.  If the application is properly prepared under California Code of Civil Procedure section 699.510, the clerk is required to issue a writ of execution. The writ of execution is directed to either a sheriff or a process server.   The writ of execution orders the levying officer (the sheriff or the process server) to enforce the money judgment.  (California Code of Civil Procedure section 699.520).

Limitations on a Writ of Execution

There are both legal and practical limitations on when you can use a writ of execution.  The legal limitation is that it applies to a money judgment issued in California.  Under Code of Civil Procedure section 680.270, a “money judgment is that part of a judgment that requires the payment of money.”  So, for example, if a landlord sues to evict a tenant and to recover back due rent, the landlord would obtain a writ of possession to get the tenant out of the space and a writ of execution to collect the money.

The practical limitation is that because the writ of execution is directed to a sheriff or process server, you have to know what assets the judgment debtor has for them to be able to enforce the judgment and seize that asset.   One way to do that is through your own investigation.  Sometimes you can learn about that through a judgment debtor’s examination.  Of course, the easiest thing to obtain through a writ of execution is money from a bank account   The levying officer, however, can also use the writ of execution to obtain other property such as jewelry, cars or business equipment.

How a Writ of Execution Can Help You Get Paid

A writ of execution can help you get paid if you have a money judgment, the debtor has assets and you know what and where they are.   It gives the sheriff or the process server the power to seize that asset and either turn it over to you (in the case of money) or sell it and give you the proceeds.  While there are limits, it can be a potent weapon for your lawyer to use to collect a judgment for you.

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