Enforcing Foreign Judgments In US Courts

If you’ve been sued outside the country and lost the case, the plaintiff will probably want to enforce that decision where you’re in the US. That additional litigation phase may or may not spare you from the foreign court’s verdict.

Before that order can be enforced, a US court must recognize the judgment according to an International transaction lawyer. That means it’s equal to any judgment issued in the US. Although this could be a complex process, it’s probably less expensive and faster than filing a new legal action against you in the US.

State, Not International Or Federal Law Applies

The US isn’t part of an international treaty concerning this issue, and it’s not covered by federal law. These enforcement decisions are based on individual state laws, even if a federal court is involved. Most states passed the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act (UFMJRA), which applies in these situations, though there are some differences from state to state. If a state doesn’t have such a law, foreign judgments are generally recognized under common (or judge-made) law.

Requirements For The Judgment To Be Enforceable

As our friends at Focus Law LA will share, where the UFMJRA applies, a foreign judgment involving money will be recognized if it’s:

  • Final
  • Conclusive
  • Enforceable where it was determined

All of these criteria must be met. If a foreign court decision is being appealed, an action to enforce it in the US may be stayed until the outcome is reached.

The judgment won’t be recognized if the foreign court:

  • Was partial to one party
  • Didn’t offer due process of law
  • Lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant

The party winning the judgment must prove that these issues aren’t a problem.

Courts may have additional discretion to deny recognition for other reasons:

  • The judgment was due to fraud
  • There wasn’t enough notice of the foreign proceeding
  • The judgment is contrary to the state’s public policy
  • The judgment is contrary to US constitutional principles

A few states have a reciprocity requirement. If the foreign country issuing the decision doesn’t recognize a judgment from that state, its courts won’t recognize a judgment from that country. Each state also has procedural rules to enforce a foreign court’s decision. It may start with a new legal action, or a summary proceeding will get the enforcement case started.

The foreign judgment holder must show that it is valid and authentic. To do that, the US court normally requires a certified copy from the foreign court with a certified English translation. 

The Defendant Gets A Chance To Contest The Judgment’s Enforcement

You must be properly served with a notice of the recognition and enforcement proceeding and have an opportunity to be heard. You can contest the enforcement proceedings within a set time frame.

After procedural rules for beginning the action are met, the judgment holder must prove the judgment against you meets the state’s rules for recognition. If they do so, a US court should convert the foreign judgment to a US judgment, which becomes enforceable here in the US.

If you are struggling with a foreign judgment, contact a lawyer near you for help.

Welts, White & Fontaine, P.C.

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29 Factory Street Nashua, New Hampshire 03060
Telephone: (603) 883-0797 | FAX: (603) 883-8723 | [email protected]

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