Enforcing Sister-State & Foreign Judgments in New York
A question we are often asked is “Can I enforce a judgment from another state in New York?” The answer is yes, but depending on how you got the judgment there are different procedures that we have to follow. Under the “full faith and credit clause” of the U.S. Constitution, New York is required to recognize your sister-state judgment if it is not based on a default or confession of judgment.
Procedure if Defendant Appeared in the Underlying Case: The first, and easier procedure, applies where the judgment was obtained in a case in which the defendant appeared. That is a case which the defendant actually defended -- or least filed an answer and did not default. The out-of-state judgment also cannot be based on a confession of judgment.
To turn that judgment into a NY State judgment we just need an exemplified copy of the judgment from the clerk of the court that awarded you a judgment, and information regarding whether any payments have been made on the judgment, whether there is any stay regarding the judgment, and the judgment debtor’s last known address. An exemplified copy is a copy that has been certified as a true copy by someone in the clerk's office and then that signature in turn is certified as genuine by a judge. An exemplified copy typically has embossed seals.
To turn an out-of-state judgment into a NY judgment we file the exemplified copy of the judgment with the county clerk with some additional documents that we prepare.
Procedure if Judgment is a Default Judgment: If the out-of-state judgment was obtained by default then the procedure is more involved. A default judgment is one that is granted to the plaintiff on default based on defendant's failure to answer.
NY will not grant automatic recognition to an out-of-state default judgment. For an out-of-state default judgment NY has a summary procedure to obtain recognition. We also use this procedure to obtain recognition of a default judgment rendered by a court in a foreign country.
The easiest procedure is to file a motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint. That sets up a summary procedure that is designed to determine whether defendant received proper service of legal papers in the out-of-state case and that granting recognition to the judgment doesn't violate NY public policy.
Under NY case law on this issue, the issues that the NY court faced with the out-of-state judgment can properly review is (a) whether there was adequate service of legal papers in the out-of-state lawsuit (based on the affidavits of service in that case), and (b) whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the case (i.e., had a proper basis to hear the matter).
So, for example, if two New Yorkers had a business dispute based on something that took place in New York and later one of them moved to California and sued the other, service of process may be adequate (such as if a process server delivered the papers to the defendant), but the California court may still lack jurisdiction because the New Yorker who was still in New York had no legal connection to California.
As an alternative to bringing a motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint, we can bring a new action on the judgment. This is a brand new lawsuit based on the judgment previously obtained.
Once your sister-state judgment has been turned into a New York judgment we can then enforce the judgment in New York against the assets of the defendant/judgment debtor.
The attorneys at Starr & Starr, PLLC, have extensive experience in enforcing out-of-state and foreign country judgments in New York, including those that are default judgments. Please feel free to contact us at (888) 867-8165 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.