The Volokh Conspiracy

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What on earth is that?


Just ran across this legal term for the first time; Black's Law Dictionary defines it as,

A person appointed by a court to assemble a jury, serve a writ, or perform other duties of the sheriff or coroner if either is disqualified.

But at least under California law, an elisor is more broadly "a person appointed by the court to perform functions like the execution of a deed or document." An example, from Blueberry Properties, Inc. v. Chow (Cal. Ct. App. 2014):

We … review … the postjudgment order appointing the clerk of the court as an elisor to sign the escrow documents on behalf of Chow ….

At issue here is the court's authority and reasonableness in issuing the order appointing the elisor…. A court typically appoints an elisor to sign documents on behalf of a recalcitrant party in order to effectuate its judgments or orders, where the party refuses to execute such documents….

Courts use elisors in matters like this one to enforce their orders. Under section 128, subdivision (a)(4), "[e]very court shall have the power …. [¶] … [¶] [t]o compel obedience to its judgments, orders, and process, and to the orders of a judge out of court, in an action or proceeding pending therein." This statute has codified the principle of "[t]he inherent power of the trial court to exercise reasonable control over litigation before it, as well as the inherent and equitable power to achieve justice and prevent misuse of processes lawfully issued….")

Here, Chow entered into a settlement agreement where she agreed to transfer her property to Blueberry. The trial court entered judgment against Chow in accordance with section 664.6, which allows the court to enter judgment pursuant to the terms of a signed settlement agreement. The judgment clearly stated that Chow must execute all documents to complete the sale, including those associated with escrow. Chow thereafter failed to comply with the court's judgment and the settlement agreement by refusing to execute escrow documents. By appointing the clerk as an elisor to execute the documents on Chow's behalf, the trial court properly exercised its power under section 128, subdivision (a)(4) to enforce its judgment.

In [a 1990 precedent], the Court of Appeal affirmed the similar appointment of an elisor to sign the plaintiff's name to all documents necessary for a property transfer. There, the trial court issued an order incorporating a stipulation by the parties that the plaintiff would execute a quitclaim deed to the property transferring title to the defendant, yet the plaintiff refused to sign the documents. Citing section 128, subdivision (a)(4), the Court of Appeal explained that, "[a]s to the appointment of [an] elisor, to compel obedience to its orders the court is authorized to make such an appointment. [Citations.]"

Like in [that case], the trial court here was authorized under section 128, subdivision (a)(4) to appoint an elisor to enforce its judgment. The appointment does not exceed the bounds of reason because the trial court is simply enforcing its valid judgment, which requires Chow to transfer the property to Blueberry. As Chow provides us no valid basis for reversing the order and we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the order, we affirm the court's postjudgment order appointing the clerk of court as an elisor to execute the escrow documents on Chow's behalf.