What are Foreign Judgements?

“Foreign judgments” are either domestic judgments from other states (or the District of Columbia) or international judgments. Domestic judgments are covered by the “full faith and credit” language from Article IV, Section1 of the United States Constitution. Forty-seven states, including Virginia, have enacted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, which specifies the requirements and general procedures for enforcement of domestic foreign judgments. International judgments, on the other hand, are governed by principles of comity and by treaties. Redmon, Peyton & Braswell’s litigation practice includes advising on the domestication and enforcement of foreign judgments.

The Uniform Act has statutory provisions and procedures that must be strictly followed before a foreign judgment will be domesticated. Once followed in Virginia, however, the foreign judgment is the equivalent of a Virginia judgment. The Maryland courts have also enacted the Uniform Act, but their procedures are dictated by their own Rules.

International judgments pose their own array of challenges. The United States is a party to an international agreement regarding arbitral awards, but not a party to a general international agreement for the recognition of foreign judgments. Many U.S. courts nonetheless will recognize and enforce international judgments. As a step towards such a general agreement the United States signed in 2009 the Hague Convention on Choice of Courts Agreement. This treaty, however, has not yet been ratified by the Senate.

In Virginia, a “foreign judgment” means any judgment, decree, or order of a court of the United States or of any other court which is entitled to full faith and credit in this state.

Furthermore, a copy of any foreign judgment authenticated in accordance with the act of Congress or the statutes of the Commonwealth of Virginia may be filed in the office of the clerk of any circuit court of any city or county of the Commonwealth of Virginia upon payment of the fee prescribed. The clerk is required to treat the foreign judgment in the same manner as a judgment of the circuit court of any city or county of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A judgment so filed has the same effect and is subject to the same procedures, defenses and proceedings for reopening, vacating, or staying as a judgment of a circuit court of any city or county of the Commonwealth of Virginia and may be enforced or satisfied in like manner.

Moreover, it is required that promptly upon the filing of the foreign judgment and the affidavit, the clerk is required to mail notice of the filing of the foreign judgment to the judgment debtor at the address given and shall make a note of the mailing in the court’s docket. The notice is required to include the name and post office address of the judgment creditor and the judgment creditor’s lawyer, if any, in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, the judgment creditor may mail a notice of the filing of the judgment to the judgment debtor and may file proof of mailing with the clerk. Lack of mailing notice of filing by the clerk will not affect the enforcement proceedings if proof of mailing by the judgment creditor has been filed.