“Scire Facias” means, on a very general level, “to show cause.” It’s a Writ (known as a “Writ of Scire Facias”) that a judgment creditor can file in various instances. Specifically, a judgment creditor will file a Scire Facias on conditional judgments where the employer has failed to answer wage garnishments.
This happens most often on wage garnishments and bank levies. The procedure is that, once the employer has failed to file an Answer or other response to a Wage Garnishment, the Plaintiff files a Conditional Judgment that grants a “conditional” judgment against the employer for the amount of the Judgment against the Defendant.
It is called “conditional” because the Judgment isn’t final until the Plaintiff prepares and serves on the employer a “Scire Facias” directing the employer to appear and “show cause” (i.e. explain) why they failed to file an answer to the wage garnishment.
There are three general outcomes:
- The employer doesn’t appear and the Judgment goes final against the employer;
- The employer appears and has no good explanation for the failure, and a judgment (or consensual payment) in some amount is reached (Note: The employee lying to the employer about the status of the debt is not a defense for the employer–the employer has to comply with the response obligations under the law); and
- The employer appears and presents some good reason, such as the garnishment was defective, the Defendant was not employed during the relevant timeline, or there was another garnishment.
Regarding item number 3, that’s not always a good and sufficient response, since a garnishee should always answer legal process, but a Court will accept a late answer in that situation, unless there is a showing of collusion or a pattern of failure to respond.