Writ Of Execution

Execution Remedies CdWritOfExecution

The Court issues the judgment, but it is the Sheriff (often referred to as the "levying officer") in whatever county the debtor has assets who has to go and seize the debtor's assets and sell them for the benefit of creditors. So, how does the Sheriff made aware of the judgment and empowered to do this?

The answer is the Writ of Execution, which is an anachronism (like so much in judgment enforcement) surviving from the various Writs that existed in Middle-Age England. Once upon a time, when the Earth was seriously thought to be less round but certainly had a much smaller population, the local county Sheriff pretty much knew both everybody in the County and what assets they had. If a judgment was entered against a denizen of the county, the Court issued a Writ of Execution to the Sheriff thereof, and he trotted out to take possession of enough of the debtor's assets until the judgment had been satisfied. The Writ of Execution was thus then, as it is now, the interface mechanism between the Court and the Sheriff.

But as counties became more densely populated, it became unrealistic to expect the Sheriff to know everybody in the county and their assets, and thus the law developed to where it is now: The creditor locates the debtor's assets, and then sends the Sheriff out to grab them. The Writ of Execution thus subtly changed as well, and it now basically alerts the Sheriff that a creditor has a judgment and that the creditor believes the debtor might have assets in the Sheriff's county. However, to get the Sheriff to go out and seize assets now requires something more, most commonly the Writ of Levy which is aimed at particular assets of the debtor.

Indeed, the primary function of the Writ of Execution today is to put the Sheriff on notice that the creditor has a valid judgment, and the Sheriff may henceforth expect future Writs directed at the debtor's assets. This means that the issuance of the Writ of Execution -- or several Writs of Execution if the debtor is believed to have assets in more than one county, each Writ of Execution being directed to a particular county's Sheriff -- is one of the first steps that a creditor takes towards collection of the judgment. This set is usually accompanied by a request to the Sheriff that the Sheriff open a file and assign a case number so as to receive the fruits of collection.

Writ of Execution Topics And Opinions