Q: I won the lawsuit to get my three abducted pets back, but where do I go from here?
My pets were abducted two months ago by my ex-roomie who was acting very mentally unstable leading up to me asking him to move out of my home. I filed a lawsuit in Washington County small claims court against him, which is where my home is located and where the defendant relocated. I recently got a notice that I won the case and the judge ordered the return of my pets but I know that he won't comply if go alone and that he would likely attack me. The Sheriff's department didn't have a clear answer said they'd need a writ of assistance from a lawyer before going to his house to rescue the animals. I've contacted several lawyers without a receiving a response and, though I understand people are busy and this is a one-off job, I'm starting to get really worried, as it feels like it's going nowhere and my pets are in still danger. Am I doing something wrong or not accessing the correct legal resources? Please help.
A: Yes, you apparently have a Judgment in your favor but now need to be able to enforce it. In this case, that appears to have to be done by a Sheriff and that in turn only happens when the Sheriff gets an express Order (Writ) from the Judge telling the Sheriff to go enforce your Judgment but taking the pets from their current location. Frankly I don't know if the small claims court will issue Writs of Assistance or if you have to transfer the Judgment to the Circuit Court docket and then ask the Circuit Court for a Writ of Assistance. Regardless, you would normally draft the Writ and ask the Judge to sign it, and once signed and entered into the court record, you take it to the Sheriff to arrange for implementation. Getting a Writ of Assistance drafted and filed by an attorney is the most normal method of doing all this though you are free to draft your own and see if the Judge will sign. There is likely to be some cost involved - I would estimate 1-2 hours attorney time to draft, file, and deal with getting the Writ issued; a relatively small court charge for issuing the Writ; and a heftier charge by the Sheriff to go out and execute the Writ on site (my guess is $125-$200, depending where etc.) Any attorney familiar with litigation should have no problem creating a Writ of Assistance for you but as you note, most attorneys are busy as can be, it is the Holiday season meaning things take longer than normal, and it is a very small job for an attorney so it likely will take more time than would otherwise be warranted. You might want to contact the Oregon State Bar for their attorney referral program. They give you names of attorneys in your area that likely can help you. They normally - but not always - refer newer attorneys, trying to build a practice (read less experienced but also likely less expensive - and a Writ of Assistance should not require very much experience to get right, even if they have never actually done one before). Depending upon your financial situation, if you income-qualify, the Bar also has their "Modest Means" program wherein attorneys agree to work for substantially lower hourly rates. Good luck.
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