Civil Enforcement in a Comparative Perspective

Bailiffs play an important role in the enforcement of court orders. They are part of the state machinery for the transfer of assets from debtors to creditors and for evictions. This book investigates the surprising differences in bailiff regulation across Europe and questions how far governments take adequate responsibility for enforcement action.

Wendy Kennett
book | published | 1st edition
November 2021 | l + 638 pp.



ISBN 9781780688183



ISBN 9781839702143

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“[...], this is a highly recommended work for those who wish to examine civil enforcement, and in particular for those who are interested in analysing the procedural reality from the perspective of public management.”
-- Fernando Gascón Inchausti, International Journal of Procedural Law, 2022

There is an abundance of literature on the regulation of lawyers, civil procedure, the judiciary and the administration of the civil courts in Europe. Surprisingly, however, and in contrast to the situation in criminal cases, academic interest in the civil process appears to dwindle after final judgment. Civil enforcement agents (bailiffs) are part of the machinery of justice and exercise state authority, yet their role and regulation have been subjected to little academic scrutiny. This is all the more astonishing given that they exercise state authority and, in most jurisdictions, have extensive access to information about debtors, as well as significant coercive powers. A wide range of different institutions have been given responsibility for civil enforcement: courts, officers under the supervision of the courts but external to them, administrative agencies, independent professionals and even freelance certificated agents. Moreover, the range of functions that these institutions undertake often extends beyond the enforcement of judgments and other enforcement titles: in some states they can issue payment orders, or act as administrators in bankruptcy; they may also play a significant role in the amicable recovery of debts, or be involved in debt restructuring procedures; they may be limited to the enforcement of civil judgments and authentic instruments, or also collect taxes and other public law debts. In the latter case, mass processing requirements shape the character of the enforcement institution.

This book seeks to expose to view this fertile research territory. In doing so, it sets out two objectives. First, to highlight and explain the diversity of bailiff organisations in Europe. Second, to ask how far governments are taking responsibility for the public management of enforcement activities in the light of their impact on citizens and the increased significance attributed to personal autonomy and financial capability in the ‘neoliberal’ era. In this latter context, attention is paid to the influence of public management trends over the last thirty years and to questions of digital government and data protection.

The book is addressed to academics and policy makers interested in domestic and cross-border enforcement of judgments and orders, the regulation of the legal profession, comparative law and comparative public management – particularly in the context of the administration of justice. It also contains information of relevance to scholars of institutional theory, competition law, transnational public policy transfer and social policy in the area of debt and poverty. Countries discussed include Sweden, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Germany.


Dr Wendy Kennett is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Cardiff University. She was the Founding Chair of the Bailiff Law Reform Group (BLRG), now the Enforcement Law Review Group – a cross-industry, non-policy making discussion forum (now chaired by Lord Lucas), with the Civil Court Users Association (CCUA) as Secretariat. She is a Member of the International Association of Procedural Law and of the CIVEA Compliance, Adjudication and Review of Enforcement (CARE) Panel. She is a former EU Commission expert on enforcement and has participated in a number of EU funded projects on comparative and cross-border enforcement.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents and Preliminary Pages (p. 0)

Chapter 1. Introduction (p. 1)


Chapter 2. Enforcement Tasks and Models (p. 27)

Chapter 3. Public Management Trends (p. 53)

Chapter 4. Civil Enforcement: A Public Management Perspective (p. 87)


Chapter 5. Sweden: An Executive Enforcement Agency (p. 125)


Chapter 6. The Public Management of Judicial Officers (p. 161)

Chapter 7. The Logic of Competition (p. 189)

Chapter 8. Judicial Officers in Belgium: Tradition and Modernisation (p. 215)

Chapter 9. Judicial Officers in France: The Winds of Change (p. 243)

Chapter 10. Judicial Officers in the Netherlands: Bringing Public Management Back In? (p. 297)

Chapter 11. Public Management and Policy Transfer in CEE Countries (p. 361)

Chapter 12. Judicial Officers in CEE Countries (p. 379)


Chapter 13. Spain: State Structure and Reform Dynamics (p. 441)

Chapter 14. Austria and Slovenia: A Process of Incremental Reform (p. 489)

Chapter 15. Germany: The Long Shadow of the 19th Century (p. 521)

Chapter 16. Conclusions (p. 565)