Out-of-State Judgment Enforcement
"YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE."
An out-of-state judgment, also referred to as a "foreign judgment," is defined as "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.” The full faith and credit doctrine refers to the recognition, acceptance, and enforcement of the laws, orders and judgments of another jurisdiction. Established by Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, the full faith and credit doctrine applies to civil cases only.
Foreign judgments, excluding judgment from foreign countries, may be recognized and enforced in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island pursuant to each state’s adoption of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (the “UEFJA”). While Rhode Island enacted its version of the UEFJA back in 1985, it wasn’t until April 1, 2019 that the Massachusetts version went into effect. Now, in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, there is a uniform, streamlined process by which a foreign judgment from any other state or a United States territory may be registered and enforced. This process is absolutely essential where the only viable method of recovery for the foreign judgment creditor is to pursue the foreign judgment debtor in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. Without the ability to have the foreign judgment enforced where the debtor resides or maintains a place of business, the foreign judgment debtor would effectively be rendered immune from collection.
In both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the judgment creditor's attorney is required to strictly comply with a designated registration process. Thereafter, the Clerk’s office in the Court where the foreign judgment was registered will issue a Writ of Execution. The Writ of Execution may then be utilized by the judgment creditor's attorney to direct a constable or sheriff to seize the foreign judgment debtor’s non-exempt assets and/or to haul the foreign judgment debtor into court to answer for the debt. As is the case with any unsatisfied judgment, the judgment creditor's attorney also has the right to seek an attachment of the foreign judgment debtor's wages. In Massachusetts, attaching a foreign judgment debtor's wages requires the filing of a separate action known as a “Complaint on Judgment," while in Rhode Island this can be accomplished by the filing of a motion.
With respect to foreign judgments from foreign countries, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have adopted the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act (the "UFMJRA"). The UFMJRA provides a standard framework for courts to recognize and enforce non-U.S. money judgments. Under the UFMJRA, a foreign judgment granting or denying recovery of money will be recognized only if the judgment is final, conclusive and enforceable where rendered. In addition, a foreign judgment cannot be accepted unless the foreign court was impartial, offered due process of law and had personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
D. Baker Law Group, P.C. has registered hundreds of foreign judgments for enforcement in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and knows the process inside and out. If you have a judgment from any other state in the United States or from a foreign country that requires enforcement, the Firm can move swiftly, aggressively and efficiently to collect the money that you are owed.