If you file a lawsuit against someone in South Carolina and prevail, or if you settle your claims in an agreement approved by the court, the court will enter a judgment in your favor and order reparations to be paid. However, this payment doesn’t always take place, and you may have to take action to collect the amount you are due. This action is called enforcement, and in South Carolina, enforcing a judgment begins with applying for a writ of execution.
Under South Carolina law, if a judgment is filed with the clerk of court, the prevailing party has to apply for a writ of execution within 10 years of the date the judgment was rendered. Otherwise, the judgment will be deemed expired. You should consult with an attorney to assist you in preparing for the execution, as there are complex requirements that you must satisfy. Specifically, the execution must be directed to the sheriff, attested to by the magistrate, subscribed by the prevailing party, and must show the following:
a) The judgment
b) The name of the court
c) The county in which it was filed
d) The names of the parties
e) The amount of the reparations if mandated
f) The amount remaining due thereon
g) The time of the docketing of the judgment in the county that the execution was issued
The Role of the Sheriff
Once a proper execution has been forwarded to the sheriff’s office, the sheriff will mail a courtesy letter to the defendant recommending that he or she contact the sheriff’s office within ten days for instructions on satisfying the judgment. The letter also advises the defendant that the sheriff is required by law to seek full payment of the judgment, and failure to render full payment may result in seizure and sale of the defendant’s property to satisfy the mandate.
The sheriff will also determine if the defendant has any titled assets that are subject to levy. However, the prevailing party is responsible for all expenses pertaining to levy, such as towing, storage, and advertisement, and must place a deposit of a fixed amount, depending on the property being levied, before the levy process.
The sheriff is then required to return the writ of execution to the magistrate within 60 days of the date it was issued. The return must state the results of the execution — whether the judgment was fully satisfied, partially satisfied, or if the execution failed.
If the execution fails, the prevailing party may seek a supplemental proceeding or debtor’s examination by petitioning for a rule to show cause and order of reference with the Administrative Judge for the county where the defendant resides. The sheriff will serve the Rule to Show Cause. During these proceedings, the prevailing party can ask the defendant any question regarding his or her assets and request that they present evidence such as bank statements and tax records. These proceedings may be just as complex as the lawsuit itself, and should be undertaken with the assistance of an attorney.