South Carolina BAR Journal
SC Lawyer, May 2012, #3.
1 Supersedeas on a Money Judgment
South Carolina LawyerMay 20121 Supersedeas on a Money JudgmentBy Robert HillImagine that a jury returns a verdict for the plaintiff for X amount of money, the clerk enters judgment and the circuit court gives the defendant 10 days to make post-trial motions. The defendant (now judgment debtor) plans to file post-trial motions and, if necessary, an appeal. The plaintiff (now judgment creditor) wants the money now. May she collect on the judgment now? What if she can-and does-but the judgment is later set aside or reversed?
These issues are governed by the law of supersedeas. Supersedeas refers to a party's ability to suspend a judgment's enforcement until a post-trial motion or an appeal is resolved. See S.C. App. Ct. R. 241(c)(1) ("The effect of the granting of a supersedeas is to suspend or stay the matters decided in the order, judgment, decree or decision on appeal ..."). Parties may seek to stay many types of orders, including child custody orders in family court, administrative rulings or injunctions. This article focuses on how supersedeas works for money judgments ordered by circuit courts.
Collection efforts are automatically stayed for 10 days.
Rule 62(a), SCRCP, stays execution on the judgment for 10 days after the judgment's entry. The parties may voluntarily agree to further postpone collection efforts if, for example, the judgment debtor obtains court approval to deposit into the court the judgment amount plus any accrued interest. Paying the judgment and accrued interest into the court benefits both parties: the judgment creditor knows that funds are available to satisfy the judgment, and the judgment debtor stops the further accrual of post-judgment interest. Small v. Pioneer Machinery, Inc., 330 S.C. 62, 64-66, 496 S.E.2d 884, 885-86 (Ct. App. 1998).
Further delay requires an order granting supersedeas.
Absent an agreement, Rules 62(b) and (d), S.C. R.Civ. P., require a court order to further postpone collection efforts. A post-trial motion, for example, does not by itself stay the judgment's enforcement. In Haseldon v. Haseldon, 347 S.C. 48, 552 S.E.2d 329 (Ct. App. 2001), the family court held the father in contempt for failing to comply with an order while his motion to alter or amend was pending. He argued on appeal that the rule to show cause issued improperly because it came before the family court decided if it would reconsider its order. The Court of Appeals disagreed. It noted that the automatic stay of a judgment expires 10 days after the judgment's entry and that further stays "are not automatic and must be ordered by the court." Id. at 63, 552 S.E.2d at 337. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of contempt in part because the father never sought a supersedeas to further stay the order.
A notice of appeal likewise does not by itself stay collection efforts. "A notice of appeal from a judgment directing the payment of money does not stay the execution of the judgment unless the presiding judge before whom the judgment was obtained grants a stay of execution." S.C. Code Ann. 18-9-130(a)(1)_(2004). See also S.C. App. Ct. R. 214(b) (1)_(listing "money judgments" as an exception to the rule that a notice of appeal automatically stays the matter being appealed); cf. S.C. Code Ann. 14-23-380_(1976) (providing that an appeal automatically stays a probate court's money judgment).
Seeking supersedeas is not also enough. The stay is not effective until the court grants it. Thornton v. Wahl, 787 F.2d 1151, 1153-54 (7th Cir. 1986) (sanctioning a party and counsel for making the "preposterous" contention that moving for a stay acts as a stay).
To obtain the supersedeas, the petition for supersedeas must be verified by the client and must ordinarily first be made to the trial court that entered the judgment on appeal. Any party may then seek appellate review of an order granting or denying supersedeas. S.C. App. Ct. R. 241(d),. Once the appellate court grants or denies supersedeas, there is no further state-court review...