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March 27, 2024 3 minutes to read ∙ 600 words

Enforcing a Foreign Judgment in New York

Norina Melita

Is obtaining a judgment the final step in litigation? Not in the slightest. Enforcement procedures often require further efforts on the part of judgment creditors. In New York, articles 50 and 51 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) contain many judgment enforcement mechanisms that can be utilized in efforts meant to collect on a judgment. However, it is not uncommon for judgment debtors to move out of state before a judgment is fully satisfied. Diligent litigators must, therefore, be aware of how to enforce a judgment from a sister state in New York in order to recover on their efforts in obtaining the judgment in the first place.

While sister states may have a much simpler process of domesticating a foreign judgment (see New Jersey’s Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, which mainly necessitates the recording of a foreign judgment with the court clerk), in New York, domestication may entail a different process, depending on the type of judgment obtained. Article 54 of the CPLR provides that foreign judgments will be entitled to full faith and credit, except that those obtained by default in appearance or confession will not be as simple to domesticate. While judgments obtained after the merits were adjudicated can simply be registered with the county clerk pursuant to CPLR § 5402, default judgments or those obtained by confession will only be given full faith and credit pursuant to CPLR §§ 5406 and 3213 through plenary action or motion for summary judgment in lieu of a complaint.

A default judgment of a sister state “is conclusive on the merits and entitled to full faith and credit in [New York]. However, a defendant may challenge a judgment obtained in a sister state on the grounds that personal jurisdiction was not obtained against them: “Indeed, courts of this State will not enforce the underlying foreign judgment where the rendering State lacked personal jurisdiction. A New York court is precluded from inquiring into the merits of the judgment. Jurisdiction can, however, be challenged through an affirmative defense.

While New York courts are precluded from considering challenges to the primary claim that may form the basis of the underlying foreign action, where issues of fact remain regarding service of process in the foreign jurisdiction, the motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint will likely be denied. Therefore, particularly where you know that a defendant is a resident of New York but is being sued in a sister state, it is imperative to ensure that service is beyond reproach according to the sister state’s long-arm jurisdiction, lest you be left with a foreign default judgment that may not be enforceable in New York.

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    Norina Melita

    Fonda, NY

    Norina Melita is currently the confidential law clerk to a Supreme Court Judge in Fonda, New York. Prior to that, she was the managing attorney and vice president of legal operations at a busy litigation firm in Albany, New York. Norina also teaches business law as an adjunct professor at the College of St. Rose. You may contact Norina at [email protected].

    Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 8, March 2024 . © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.