What happens if you have a money judgment against someone that was entered in another state and the defendant moves to California? Is that judgment enforceable? Fortunately, the answer is: Definitely!
The United States Constitution provides that a judgment from a sister state (of the United States) is entitled to the same “full faith and credit” in every court within the United States as it has by law or usage in the court of the sister state. In other words, a sister state judgment rendered by a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties is given collateral estoppel (issue preclusion) and res judicata (claim preclusion) effect nationwide. An experienced collections attorney can explain these two legal terms for you in further details.
Although the judgment was entered in another state in accordance with that state’s laws, once it is brought to California it is enforced in California pursuant to California law. However, a sister state judgment cannot be enforced in California until it is “domesticated” in accordance with the Sister State Money Judgments Act (“SSMJA”) or by bringing an action to establish the judgment per California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1913.
Under the SSMJA (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1710.10 et seq.), a money judgment obtained in another state may be filed with a California court. You will need an exemplified copy of the judgment from the originating state, an application for entry of a sister state judgment, a notice and a proposed judgment. Also a little caveat, there are some states like Arizona, that only allow enforcement of their judgments within five years of entry and execution, so make sure when you get the judgment that it is still enforceable in the origin state and has not become dormant. A dormant judgment is one upon which the statute of limitations has not yet run but which, because of a lapse of time during which no enforcement action has been taken, may not be enforced unless certain steps are taken by the judgment holder to revive the judgment.
Interest on the judgment follows the law of the originating state until the judgment is entered in California, so it is helpful to know the rate in the origin state and the specific code section that provides for post judgment interest. While the application and notice are judicial council forms, the actual judgment is either a local form depending on the state court you file your application in, or a pleading that you prepare. Most state courts will issue an actual judgment, but there are a few courts in California that don’t actually issue a judgment. Instead, they treat the application as the judgment. The filing fee is the same as a complaint and once issued, you will be required to serve it just like a summons and complaint, i.e., personal service or substituted service.
Speak to collections attorney Ronald P. Slates today for assistance with collecting on an out-of-state judgment.