Q:

What costs are recoverable when enforcing a California money judgment?

A:

The judgment creditor is entitled to the reasonable and necessary costs of enforcing a judgment.  California Code of Civil Procedure §685.070 allow the judgment creditor as a matter of right to collect the following costs:

  1. Statutory fees for preparing and issuing, and recording and indexing, an abstract of judgment or a certified copy of a judgment;
  2. Statutory fees for filing a notice of judgment lien on personal property;
  3. Statutory fees for issuing a writ for the enforcement of the judgment to the extent that the fees are not satisfied pursuant to Section 685.050;
  4. Statutory costs of the levying officer for performing the duties under a writ;
  5. Statutory fee of the levying officer for performing the duties under the Wage Garnishment Law; and
  6. Reasonable and necessary costs incurred in connection with debtor’s examinations and certain other enforcement proceedings.

There are other reasonable and necessary enforcement expenses that are discretionary with the court.  The judgment creditor is required to file a noticed motion with the court to determine whether these costs will be allowed.  For example, fees of a registered process server, may in the court’s discretion, be allowed as a recoverable cost of enforcing the judgment [CCP§699.080(f)].

Q:

Are attorney fees recoverable when enforcing a California money judgment?

A:

Generally, attorney fees are not recoverable when enforcing a California money judgment.

However, if the underlying judgment includes an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to a written contract, then attorney fees incurred in enforcing a judgment are included as a collectible cost. [CCP §685.040; CCP §1033.5(a)(10)(A)] There are a few other special circumstances when attorney fees are recoverable as a cost. For example, attorney fees incurred for a judgment debtor’s examination must be awarded where the judgment debtor or third party fails to appear for the examination without good cause or if the judgment debtor fails to answer interrogatories without substantial justification. 

Q:

What is the procedure for claiming costs and attorney fees of enforcing a judgment?

A:

To claim costs authorized by CCP §685.070, a judgment creditor must file a Memorandum of Costs and serve that on the judgment debtor.  If the judgment debtor does not file a motion to tax costs then after ten days the costs are added to and become a part of the judgment.

To claim any discretionary costs and attorney fees authorized by CCP §685.040, the judgment creditor must file a noticed motion.  This motion must be made within two years of incurring the cost or attorney fees and before the judgment is satisfied.  The motion must be accompanied by a declaration of a person who has knowledge of the facts stating that to the person’s best knowledge and belief the costs are correct, are reasonable and necessary and have not been satisfied.

The cost of serving a writ is also included in the judgment. [CCP §685.095]