Winning parties to non-U.S. litigation matters often look to sources in the United States to satisfy their judgments. American courts will generally accept a judgment obtained in a foreign judicial proceeding as binding and permit enforcement.
The first thing a foreign judgment holder needs to know is that the United States is not a party to any international convention governing the recognition and enforcement of foreign money judgments. Rather the United States has chosen to stand apart from other countries that have reciprocally agreed to recognize each other’s judgments such as in the Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters among EC member states, the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters among EC and EFTA member states and the Inter-American Convention on the Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards among OAS member states.
However, in the absence of any international agreement, American courts have traditionally been quite liberal in recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments under state law. To accomplish this, a legal action is commenced in either a federal or state court based upon the applicable provisions of the version of the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act adopted by the state in which that court sits. In order to succeed, the foreign country judgment holder must show the judgment is conclusive, final and enforceable in the country of origin. However, judgments on taxes, fines or criminal-like penalties and judgments relating to child support or spousal alimony will not be enforced. A foreign-country judgment will not be recognized if it comes from a court system that is not impartial, lacks due process, had no personal jurisdiction over the defendant or lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Additionally, an American court may deny recognition if the defendant received no notice of the proceeding or the claim is repugnant to American public policy.
Generally though, if the judgment meets the statutory standards, the court will recognize it and the judgment may be enforced. Execution on the judgment may then proceed, which means the judgment holder may proceed against the property of the judgment debtor to satisfy the judgment amount. Because dollar denominated international wires must clear through banks in the United States, it is often possible to trace a judgment debtor’s financial transfers and locate recoverable assets.
Marks & Sokolov, LLC has extensive experience representing multinational clients in the United States and abroad. For more information on enforcement of foreign country money judgments in the United States, please contact: Bruce Marks firstname.lastname@example.org and Thomas Sullivan email@example.com.