Enforcing non-US judgements in the United States

Debt collection lawyer in the USA – Attorney Monte Silver

We represent non-US companies large and small in enforcing foreign judgments in the US. Among our clients are (i) large international banks with hundreds of millions of dollars in judgements against US-based debtors, (ii) ordinary non-US businesses with judgments of at least one hundred thousand dollars.

Debt collection in the USA is conducted in one of two ways: (a) when there is a final judgment against the debtor, or (ii) when there is no judgment.

Here we will deal with the situation where there is a foreign judgement.

Who we are

We are a US law firm located outside the US.  We specialize in one thing: representing non-US based clients in US-based legal matters. We have thirty years of experience in enforcing foreign judgments in the United States. We have operated in dozens of states in the USA, not only in the big states such as New York, California, Miami, Texas, Illinois and Massachusetts. We acted against dodgy diamond dealers in Brooklyn, and against high tech companies in California. We’ve seen it all.

The cases we handled include:

  • Enforcement of foreign judgments of large banks and financial institutions against well-known and powerful US debtors.
  • Enforcement of foreign
    judgments of foreign businesses against businesses and people in the USA.

Main legal issues regarding the enforcement of the US judgment

Where do you initiate the enforcement of a foreign judgment in the US?

Enforcement of a judgment is carried out in the state court where the debtor is located or where the debtor has assets.  Such action can be initiated in all states in the USA.

What are the basic conditions for enforcing a judgment in the US?

  1.   Was the judgement obtained after the debtor representing itself? 

The judgment can be one of two types: (i) a judgement given after a trial where the debtor defended itself, or (ii) a judgement given by default, where the debtor did not represent itself I the foreign proceeding

 

  1. The judgement is for money – which can include expenses, interest, and attorney’s fees. On the other hand, there are judgments that cannot be enforced in the US, such as tax judgments (of the foreign government) or a criminal judgment
  2. The judgment is final.  This means that there was an appeal in the foreign country, or or the debtor did not file an appeal within the time permitted in the foreign country

The procedure for enforcing a foreign judgment in the USA

  1. Submission of the request to enforce a foreign judgment.  Each state has somewhat different procedures regarding the enforcement of foreign judgments. In most cases, the creditor must submit an application for the enforcement of the judgment in the state where the debtor resides or has property.  An English translation of the judgment must be attached to the request for enforcement.

 The documents submitted to the court must include:

  • Name and address of the debtor.
  • The amount of the debt according to the judgment.
  • Date on which the judgment was issued.
  • The name of the court that issued the judgment.
  • Legal basis according to which the foreign court had jurisdiction.

How can a debtor avoid enforcement of the judgment in the US?

  1. Service of process. The most common way to convince a US not to enforce the foreign judgment is to prove to the American judge that the foreign lawsuit was not served according to the law. As a result, the debtor will claim that it did not have the opportunity to defend itself.

A judge will always closely examine whether the initial lawsuit was properly served.  Most countries are signatory to the Hague Service Convention. The court in the USA will examine whether service was valid under the Convention.

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of servicing the initial lawsuit!!!  A US judge will not enforce a foreign judgment based on improper service.   This is even the case where the creditor is a reputable bank, and that there is no dispute that the debtor did owe the money!

  1. The foreign court’s jurisdiction

The US courts will enforce a foreign judgment unless the foreign court lacked legal authority to hear the case. For example, if the contract between the parties required disputes to be arbitrated, or submitted to a court in a different country, the US court may refuse to enforce the judgment in the US.

Will you see any money from this?

A judgment in the US is worthless if there are no assets from which to satisfy the judgement.  We have a network of private investigators throughout the US to check whether the debtor has assets.

Our advantage

We have decades of experience enforcing foreign judgments in the US. We’ve seen it all. Before a foreign creditor (and our firm) wastes time, we carefully examine the key facts that could render the entire enforcement process useless.  

Bottom line – if you have a foreign judgment against a person or company in the USA, contact us for a free consultation.

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