Domestication of Federal Court Judgments: Really Easy

Four years ago, I talked about the process of domesticating a foreign judgment, which is the process by which a party makes a judgment of one state enforceable in a different state. Under each state’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, I said, it’s a pretty easy process.

What I didn’t mention, however, is how much easier it is to enforce a judgment granted in Federal District Court in another District Court.

In the federal system, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963, all a plaintiff must do is record a certified copy of the final judgment in the other district. “A judgment so registered shall have the same effect as a judgment of the district court of the district where registered and may be enforced in like manner.”

To cut through the legalese, once you record your out-of-district, final judgment, it becomes enforceable immediately in the new district. There’s no need to serve a copy on the judgment debtor; there’s no 30 day response or objection period.

The reasoning behind this is simple. When you cross state lines, you take your judgment into a new jurisdiction, with a different state constitution and different laws. Under the federal court system, you’re not truly crossing any boundaries. And that’s a pretty powerful tool to keep in mind when deciding where to file an action against an out of state defendant.

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