Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid

Standard 7.11-6 on Enforcement of Orders

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Standard

The practitioner should take reasonable and necessary steps to assure that the client receives the benefit conferred by a favorable judgment, settlement or order that is obtained on the client's behalf.

Commentary

Effective representation of a client usually does not stop when a favorable judgment or settlement is obtained. The practitioner should take reasonable steps to assure that the adversary complies with the order, judgment or settlement and that the client receives any monetary relief ordered by the court or agreed to as part of the settlement. While enforcement of injunctive relief is a significant outcome of litigation, for many low income clients even a small amount of monetary relief may be critical to their well-being. In order to assure compliance with certain orders, especially those issued in family law cases such as visitation, custody or child support, the practitioner may have to bring a separate enforcement or contempt proceeding, without which the relief ordered may be meaningless for the client.

Enforcement strategies should be part of long-range case planning from the outset of any litigation, including consideration of the predictable cost of enforcement. The relief sought in pleadings and at trial should be structured with an eye to enforceability and with specific plans for follow-up.

The practitioner should also recognize those situations in which remedies obtained by litigation may benefit other clients. In such circumstances, steps should be taken to realize the benefits that result from the practitioner's legal work for all clients whose interest may be affected. If an order is obtained that involves a class of persons, the practitioner should seek to have all affected persons notified and should enforce compliance of the class relief.

Occasionally, particularly in complex cases, enforcement of compliance with a remedy will become an extremely costly, long term endeavor that may be beyond the resources of the provider to pursue. At times, it may be necessary for the practitioner and the client to enter into an understanding regarding the limits on what the practitioner will do to enforce an order, judgment or settlement on the client's behalf. If otherwise consistent with the ethical duty owed to the client, a practitioner may withdraw from representation, if the practitioner's continued representation will impose an unreasonable financial burden on the provider.