As anyone can tell you that has been through a lawsuit, it is a long, challenging and arduous experience. Starting from the filing of the complaint, serving the defendant(s) with the complaint, conducting written discovery and depositions to the trial, there are many obstacles in the way of obtaining a judgment against a defendant. Assuming, for purposes of this article, that you have overcome the legal hurdles necessary to obtain a judgment; congratulations, you now have another fight on your hands.
Getting Your Judgment Perfected
Once a finding is made in your favor and you are awarded an amount of money, depending on the circumstances relative to how you received your money award will determine how you have to go about enforcing your judgment. For example, if obtained your money award through a default judgment, stipulated judgment or court trial, your attorney will need to file form Jud-100 asking the court to approve the judgment amount. In a jury trial, a judgment will routinely be entered by the clerk following the rendering of the verdict.
No matter how you obtain a favorable result in your lawsuit, before you can begin collecting your money, you first need to obtain a judgment from the judge who oversaw your lawsuit. Once you obtain your judgment, you will then have to go and enforce your judgment.
Enforcing Your Judgment
Once you have obtained a court executed judgment, you will now have to take steps to enforce the judgment. Unless your defendant was insured, most defendants will not voluntarily pay you the amount of your judgment. Instead, you will be required to hunt down the defendant’s assets and attach your judgment to the assets. However, before you can start going after the defendant’s bank accounts, place liens on the defendant’s property, you must obtain a writ of execution (Form EJ-130).
Writ of Execution
The writ of execution is necessary because this is the document that you will serve on banks to freeze the defendant’s bank accounts in an attempt to collect money for your judgment. The writ of execution is a document that sets forth the name of the debtor, i.e. the name of the person or company whom you hold the judgment against, the amount of the judgment, plus interest and fees. For Los Angeles County, there is a page that explains how to fill out a writ of execution.
In Los Angeles County, once you have filled in the writ of execution, you must submit to Dept. 118 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. From there it will be submitted to the judge, who will either accept the writ and sign it or return it to your attorney for corrections.
Valid Writ of Execution
Once you have obtained an enforceable writ of execution, you can now move forward with freezing defendant’s bank accounts. However, there is a process that must be followed. Namely, you have to the Sheriff Department in the county where defendant’s bank accounts are located, serve the financial institution with the writ of execution. In the alternative, if you wish to have more control over when the writ of execution is served on defendant’s financial institution, you can have a process server serve defendant’s financial institution once the Sheriff’s department has approved the writ.
If you decide to have a process server serve a writ of execution on behalf of the Sheriff’s department, you will need to provide the Sheriff’s department with the following items:
- A Letter of Instruction sent to the the Sheriff’s Dept. advising the Sheriff that you wish to have a process server serve the writ of execution on the financial institution.
- Writ of Execution
- Notice of Levy (Form EJ-150)
- Memorandum of Garnishee (Form EJ-152)
- Exemptions from Enforcement of Judgment (If the debtor is a natural person.)
- Current dollar amounts of exemptions (If the debtor is a natural person.)
- Claim of exemption (If the debtor is a natural person.)
- Financial Statement (If the debtor is a natural person.)
Once these documents have been served on the bank, the bank will automatically freeze the debtor’s accounts. The bank will then send in the debtor’s financial information to the Sheriff’s department within 21 days. Assuming there is money in the account, this money will be collected by the Sheriff’s department, paid to the you and applied towards your judgment amount.
This process must be followed for each financial institution that you seek to issue a writ of execution on. The judgment obtained against the defendant is valid for ten (10) years. After ten years, the judgment must be renewed or you will lose your right to enforce it.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, feel free to contact the attorneys at The Rinka Law Firm at 877-778-8678.