There are two basic reasons a party will seek to have a foreign judgment recognized by a US court. First, the party is a judgment creditor who seeks recognition as the first step towards enforcing a foreign judgment against a judgment debtor’s US assets. Second, a party may seek recognition of a foreign judgment to preclusively prevent another party from re-litigating the action in the US.
How to Secure Recognition of a Foreign Judgment in a US Court
In Hilton v Guyton, SCOTUS held that whether a foreign judgment is to be recognized by a US court depends on a comity analysis and the application of state law. To this end, the majority of states have adopted a version of the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act of 1962 (UFMJRA). The UFMJRA’s scope is broad, such that it applies to all pecuniary judgments except those where the judgment is for foreign taxes or penalties, or for monetary awards arising out of a divorce proceeding. Foreign monetary judgments are to be enforced if the foreign judgment is final, conclusive, and enforceable where it was rendered. All three must be present for a judgment to be recognized.
Factors that Affect Foreign Judgment Recognition
However, even if a foreign judgment was rendered, under the UFMJRA, a judgment cannot be recognized if the foreign judgment:
- “was rendered under a judicial system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law;”
- “did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant;”
- “did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter.”
Importantly, a foreign court’s assertion of personal jurisdiction cannot be challenged if:
- the defendant was served with process personally in the foreign country;
- the defendant voluntarily appeared in the proceeding, other than for the purpose of protecting property seized or threatened with seizure in the proceeding or of contesting the jurisdiction of the court over the defendant;
- the defendant, before the commencement of the proceeding, had agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court with respect to the subject matter involved;
- the defendant was domiciled in the foreign country when the proceeding was instituted or was a corporation or other form of business organization that had its principal place of business in, or was organized under the laws of, the foreign country;
- the defendant had a business office in the foreign country and the proceeding in the foreign court involved a [cause of action claim for relief] arising out of business done by the defendant through that office in the foreign country; or
- the defendant operated a motor vehicle or airplane in the foreign country and the proceeding involved a [cause of action claim for relief] arising out of that operation.
In addition, under the UFMJRA, a foreign judgment is not recognized if service of process was improper or did not allow the defendant sufficient time to respond; the judgment was obtained by fraud or is based on laws that are “repugnant to the public policy of this state or of the United States;” or if the judgment conflicts with “another final and conclusive judgment.”
How LLS Can Help
Most readers know that Legal Language Services (LLS) provides assistance with international service of process and the taking of evidence abroad. But few readers are aware that LLS can provide assistance down the road once you have obtained a foreign judgment.
LLS works with agents all across the globe, assisting clients with international service of process and taking evidence abroad. Accordingly, we have contacts with foreign attorneys on all six inhabited continents making us ideally positioned to facilitate the filing of judgments for recognition in both US and overseas courts. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.
Call 1-800-788-0450 or simply fill out our free quote form.
 159 U.S. 113 (1895).
 The US has not entered into any unilateral or bilateral treaties concerning foreign judgment recognition (or enforcement).
 However, a US court may stay its proceeding pending the outcome of an appeal in the foreign country.
 §4(c). (Some verbiage removed).