Enforcing A Foreign Judgment In New York: Application of the Hague Convention

Commercial Litigation: Let’s assume that you obtain a judgment for monetary damages in another country and you now want to satisfy that judgment by levying on assets that are in the State of New York. Before doing so, you generally have to institute an action in New York so that the State will recognize the foreign judgment. The Courts will recognize a foreign judgment only where

(i) the court that issued the foreign judgment had personal jurisdiction over the debtor;
(ii) the court that issued the foreign judgment had subject matter jurisdiction over the case;
(iii) the court that issued the foreign judgment engaged in procedures in accordance with due process of law; and
(iv) enforcing the judgment will not be unfair or in direct contravention to the public policies of the State of New York.

In determining whether a foreign country had personal jurisdiction over the debtor, the Court will often look to see if the foreign county complied with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters, assuming that the foreign country is a signatory of this convention. Under the Hague Convention, service is proper where the document is served in accordance with the internal laws of the participating country. For instance, if a creditor is seeking to enforce a French judgment in the United States, service would be proper if made in accordance with United States law.

In addition, a participating country may require a document to be translated into the official language of the country in which an individual or entity is seeking to enforce the judgment. However, this obligation is not automatic. The United States Department of Justice, for instance, does not require that documents be translated in English when serving a defendant in the United States. Thus, where a debtor in the United States is served with a legal document that he cannot understand, it nonetheless constitutes sufficient notice for jurisdictional purposes.

In light of the various rules and requirements applicable to the enforcement of foreign judgments in New York, it is important to consult an attorney before seeking to enforce such a judgment. Moreover, it is generally recommended that you consult with an attorney where you are looking to enforce the judgment, regardless of where the lawsuit is being brought, at the outset of the litigation process. This can help to ensure that the service and general proceeding of the litigation are conducted in a manner so as to conform with the rules of the jurisdiction where the judgment will be enforced.

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