Cal. Litig. 2021, Volume 34, Number 1

Staying Enforcement of a Money Judgment on Appeal

By H. Thomas Watson

H. Thomas Watson, a Certified Appellate Specialist, is a partner at the appellate firm Horvitz & Levy LLP. Tom has published and presented extensively on numerous legal topics, including appellate procedure, medical expense damages, health law, and insurance law.

Unless enforcement is stayed, a judgment creditor can enforce a money judgment as soon as it is entered — unless the judgment debtor is a public entity. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 917.1, subd. (a), 995.220.) Money judgments are usually enforced by levying against the judgment debtor’s property under a writ of execution. (See Ahart, Cal. Practice Guide: Enforcing Judgments and Debts (The Rutter Group 2019) ¶ 6:300, p. 6D-1.) The court clerk has a ministerial duty to issue a writ of execution, which means that the clerk issues the writ in the ordinary course of business without any notice to the judgment debtor or any ruling or approval by the judge. (See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 699.510, 712.010; see also Judicial Council Forms, form EJ-130.)

Under a writ of execution, the judgment debtor’s unprotected assets can be seized and its bank accounts frozen. (See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 695.010 et seq., 699.010 et seq., 699.520 et seq.) However, there are several ways to secure a stay of enforcement. Judgment debtors and their counsel should understand all of these available options.

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