By: Bonnie J. Jackson, Shareholder
The enforcement of foreign judgments in the United States requires an understanding of the state’s laws within which one seeks to enforce such a judgment. Enforcing foreign judgments in Florida, as one example, is governed by Florida’s Uniform Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act. Specifically, if a creditor has obtained a money judgment in a foreign country against a corporation or individual located in Florida, or with assets located in Florida, there is a statute that can provide assistance in obtaining recognition for the purpose of enforcing foreign judgments in Florida.
In order to obtain recognition in Florida of the out-of-country foreign money judgment, the judgment creditor must satisfy the requirements set forth in Florida Statute §55.601 et seq. (“the Act”). The Act applies only to out-of-country foreign money judgments that are final, conclusive, and enforceable where rendered. See Fla. Stat. §55.603. Also, the Act contains mandatory procedures that must be followed for recognition and enforcement. Those mandatory procedures are set forth in Florida Statute §55.604 and state that:
(1) The out-of-country foreign judgment shall be filed with the clerk of the court and recorded in the public records in the county or counties where enforcement is sought.
(a) At the time of the recording of an out-of-country foreign judgment, the judgment creditor shall make and record with the clerk of the circuit court an affidavit setting forth the name, social security number, if known, and last known post-office address of the judgment debtor and of the judgment creditor.
(b) Promptly upon the recording of the out-of-country foreign judgment and the affidavit, the clerk shall mail notice of the recording of the out-of-country foreign judgment, by registered mail with return receipt requested, to the judgment debtor at the address given in the affidavit and shall make a notice of the mailing in the docket. The notice shall include the name and address of the judgment creditor and of the judgment creditor’s attorney, if any, in this state. In addition, the judgment creditor may mail a notice of the recording of the judgment to the judgment debtor and may record proof of mailing with the clerk. The failure of the clerk to mail notice of recording will not affect the enforcement proceedings if proof of mailing by the judgment creditor has been recorded.
See Fla. Stat. §55.604(1)(a) – (1)(b). Upon the recording and filing of the affidavit and judgment, the purported judgment debtor(s) has the right to notice of any attempts to domesticate the out-of-country foreign money judgment, as well as the opportunity to respond to such attempts. These procedures are set forth further in the Act and state as follows:
(2) The judgment debtor shall have 30 days after service of the notice to file a notice of objection with the clerk of the court specifying the grounds for non-recognition or non-enforceability under this act.
(3) Upon the application of any party, and after proper notice, the circuit court shall have jurisdiction to conduct a hearing, determine the issues, and enter an appropriate order granting or denying recognition in accordance with the terms of this act.
(4) If the judgment debtor fails to file a notice of objection within the required time, the clerk of the court shall record a certificate stating that no objection has been filed.
See Fla. Stat. §55.604(2) – (4). If the judgment debtor fails to object and the clerk’s certificate is recorded, or if there is an objection and the evidentiary hearing results in a determination in favor of the judgment creditor, then an order of recognition can and must be obtained by the judgment creditor. At that point, the out-of-country foreign money judgment may be enforced as if it were rendered in Florida. See Fla. Stat. §55.604(5) & (6). This means that the order of recognition and judgment may be recorded in other counties in Florida in the same manner as a judgment rendered by a Florida court.
By recording the order of recognition and judgment in the official records of any Florida county, the judgment creditor establishes a lien on the real estate of the judgment debtor in the county of recording. Also, the priority of that lien in competing with other liens that may have been recorded is established at the time of the recording. See Fla. Stat. §55.604(7). The axiom ‘first in time, first in right’ establishes the lien priority.
Alternatively, if the judgment creditor seeks to create a lien on personal property, then a different procedure must be followed. In that event, a judgment lien certificate must be filed with the Florida Department of State in accordance with Florida Statute §55.203.
It is important to have a skilled litigation attorney involved in enforcing foreign judgments in order to evaluate the out-of-country foreign money judgment to determine application of the Act, and to handle the preliminary steps required by the Act. For instance, a judgment creditor should not record and file the Affidavit and out-of-country foreign money judgment in any Florida county, but rather in a county where enforcement proceedings are sought. Also, an out-of-country foreign money judgment that has been partially satisfied or that was obtained without due process afforded to the judgment debtor may not be recognized in Florida. By hiring Jackson Law International, you get an attorney experienced in international litigation issues and specifically in enforcing foreign judgments, so that precautions can be taken to help ensure recognition of the judgment, and guard against potentially lengthy and costly litigation that may follow. Whether you seek to have the foreign judgment enforced in Florida or elsewhere, feel free to contact our law firm to discuss such foreign judgment enforcement.
Our international experience allows us to assist clients in international matters, and the firm looks forward to the opportunity to put that experience to work for you.
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© Jackson Law International 2014