Jurisdiction to Enforce Foreign-Country Money Judgments - Part 4 Chapter 3 - The Practice of International Litigation - 2nd Edition
Lawrence W. Newman has been a partner in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie since 1971, when, together with the late Professor Henry deVries, he founded the litigation department in that office. He is the author/editor of 4 works on international litigation/arbitration.
Michael Burrows, Formerly, Of Counsel, Baker & McKenzie, New York.
Every day countless lawsuits are initiated, focusing lawyers’ attention on questions of the courts’ jurisdiction over defendants. Far fewer proceedings are brought to enforce judgments, especially judgments obtained outside the United States. Consequently, many practitioners, when faced with the enforcement of a judgment rendered abroad, may consider for the first time issues of a court’s jurisdiction over foreign judgment debtors.
This chapter examines jurisdiction to enforce foreign-country money judgments, particularly New York’s unique position on this issue. This issue is best understood in the light of the historical background of recognition and enforcement of both sister-state and foreign-country judgments.
Foreign-country judgments have long been recognized in the U.S. on the basis of comity. In the celebrated Supreme Court case of Hilton v. Guyot, it was held that enforcement of foreign-country judgments in the United States was appropriate as long as the defendant had been afforded an “opportunity for a full and fair trial abroad before a court of competent jurisdiction. . . .” Comity, of course, is not the standard for enforcement in one state of judgments granted in a sister state. Under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution, state courts give recognition to and enforce judgments of other states.
The Uniform Acts
The traditional procedure for enforcing both foreign-country and sisterstate judgments was a second full-scale trial in the enforcing state. In 1948, the original Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act was approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. It provided for a summary judgment procedure for actions based on sisterstate judgments. Also in 1948, Congress made enforcement of federal district court judgments simpler by providing for a registration procedure by which judgments of one district court could be enforced in another district.
In 1964, the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (Sister State Act) was revised. The revision introduced a registration procedure for enforcement of sister-state judgments, similar to the inter-district procedure under federal statute. Under the revised act, the clerk of the court in the enforcing state treats the sister-state judgment “in the same manner” as a judgment of a court in the enforcing state and the sister-state judgment “has the same effect and is subject to the same procedures, defenses and proceedings for reopening, vacating, or staying . . . ” as those pertaining to a judgment of a court of the enforcing state.