IX. AFTER THE COURT'S DECISION
A. How will the court's decision be enforced?
It can be very challenging, and often frustrating,
to try to collect money damages when you win your case, or to
make sure that the other side does what the judge ordered in
his or her decision. If you win your case in court, and the court
awards you money, or if the court orders the other side to do
or not do something, one or more of the following processes might
"Voluntary" Compliance Sometimes,
when you win your case, the other side will simply pay
the money owed, or do what the order requires them to do.
If the other side does not pay, you must be very careful
when trying to collect monies owed to you as there are
laws about what you can and cannot do or say when you are
collecting a debt. Know the law in this area before attempting
the other party does not voluntarily obey an order, you may
ask the court to issue an "execution." An execution
is the legal paper that allows you to enforce the judgment.
Once you receive the execution you may contact your local
sheriff or constable for further information. There may
be a fee for services provided by the sheriff or constable.
in Small Claims Cases After your small
claims action is decided, the court will automatically
set up a payment hearing. The court will determine if
the winning party has been paid, and if not, a payment
schedule may be ordered. If the losing party has not
paid and doesn't show up at the payment hearing, a civil
warrant for his or her arrest could be issued.
Process After you win a judgment for money,
if you have an execution which is unpaid, you can ask the
court to schedule a hearing to find out whether the other
side has the ability to pay. This hearing is called "supplementary
process." It typically allows you to see how much
money the other side earns and what property he or she
might own. With that information, you can then ask the
court to make a payment order.
the court makes an order in your favor and the other side
does not comply, it may be appropriate to ask the court
to enforce it by filing a complaint for contempt. In a
contempt proceeding, the court has the power to take steps
to try to compel the other side to obey its order. Under
some circumstances, the court might even send the disobeying
party to jail for failure to follow the court's order.
Summary Process If
you are a landlord who has won an eviction case, you must
be certain to enforce your judgment in a lawful way. To
do this, you will need an execution, just as you would
to recover a money judgment. In summary process cases,
the execution is what gives the sheriff or constable the
power to physically move a tenant out of a rented home
or apartment. Be aware that there are complex laws about
what can and cannot be done when evicting a tenant.
Make sure you read and
understand the complete written decision or order
of the court and follow it. If you do not comply
with the court's order there may be further consequences.
B. What if I am dissatisfied with the
If you are dissatisfied with the court's decision,
you may have the right to file an appeal. However, just because
you don't agree with the decision does not automatically mean
you have a right to appeal. You will need to do research to determine
if there is a legal basis for an appeal. The other party can
also appeal if it is dissatisfied with the court's decision.
Keep in mind that there are specific, detailed
rules for filing an appeal. There are also strict time frames.
You must file a notice of appeal within the time provided by
the rules or you could lose your right to appeal. Your local
Trial Court law library is a resource where you can study the
applicable rules and laws. Refer to Appendix A for information
about Trial Court law libraries.
Typically, the court that hears the appeal (referred
to as the "appellate court") will only consider issues
that were raised by the parties in the trial court. You cannot
introduce more evidence or raise new issues in the appellate
court. In making its decision, the appellate court relies on
the official record of what happened in the trial court and on
written arguments which present the facts and law.
C. How do I appeal the lower court's decision?
If you decide to appeal your case, the first step
is to file a notice of appeal in the clerk's, register's or recorder's
office of the court in which your case was heard. Deadlines for
appeals come up very quickly. The deadline for filing an appeal
can be as short as ten (10) days. You need to read the rules
to know exactly which days are counted and which are not to calculate
when you have to file an appeal. As soon as you get a judgment,
you need to find out what the deadline is for filing an appeal
and where you need to file it. It is important that you read
and follow the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure or
other rules that may apply to your case.
D. Will the appeal affect the judgment
of the lower court?
The fact that a notice of appeal has been filed
does not mean that the judgment cannot be enforced. A party must
ask the court to delay, or "stay", enforcement of the
judgment during the appeal in accordance with the applicable
rules. This request must ordinarily be filed first in the court
where the case was heard.
E. Where can I get more information?
There are resources to help you determine what
standards the appellate courts use for reviewing court decisions,
and what factors are typically reviewed by the appellate courts.
You may want to visit your local Trial Court law library to do
research about the specific issues involved in your case. Refer
to Appendix A for information about the Trial Court law libraries.
F. What if I want to appeal and the time
In most cases, once the time period for filing
an appeal has ended or any and all appeals have been decided,
the matter cannot be reviewed again. One possible exception to
this rule is a judgment that governs an ongoing relationship.
For example, when people with children divorce, they continue
to be parents. The court's judgment in the divorce may set out
the terms of visitation. If the parties' circumstances change,
for example, if one party wants to move out of state or loses
a job, one or both parties can ask the court to modify the judgment.