Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act Summary

Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States requires each state to give full faith and credit to the official acts and judgments of every other state. The "full faith and credit" clause unites the states in a very practical way, and is meant to prevent abuses of jurisdiction experienced during the period of time when the original states were under the Articles of Confederation. Even though "full faith and credit" is mandatory, the states have never wholly resolved the problem of its implementation. The Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act settles one of those problems.

Without the Uniform Act, a person who obtains a valid judgment of a court in one-state likely will have to re­-litigate the enforcement of that judgment in any other state. Such a state of affairs clearly violates the spirit of "full faith and credit" and is a burden on those who have obtained a judgment in one state and who must take it to other states for enforcement for whatever reason.  

A state that enacts the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act permits enforcement of a judgment of another state upon the mere act of filing it in the office of a Clerk of Court. The act of filing the foreign judgment gives it the effect of being a judgment of the court in the state in which it is filed. The process of enforcement then goes forward as if the judgment is a domestic one.

When a judgment is filed, the Clerk of Court notifies the person subject to the judgment of that filing. Any ordinary method of enforcement becomes available once notice is given. However, any person subject to a judgment has the power to stay its enforcement when it is still being appealed in the state of origin. Any grounds for raising a collateral attack remain fully available. But, until the person subject to a judgment raises such issues, the judgment will be enforced without further proceedings.  

In reviewing the Uniform Act, it is well to remember that Congress has the express power to implement Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. If the states do not remove impediments to enforcement of judgments, Congress may well act under its express power. Bills to that effect are under consideration as this summary is being written. Adopting the Uniform Act simply reserves to the states the power to keep enforcement of state judgments as a state issue. Congressional action would deprive the states of that power.