The Guerrini Law Firm
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Areas of Practice
Commercial Collections
Domestication of Judgments

Contac tUs

Domestication of Judgments

The firm is regularly retained to assist in the extraterritorial recognition and enforcement of judgments ‑ i.e. full faith and credit ‑ and procedures to enforce out‑of‑state (sister state) and foreign country judgments in California.

The federal 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. Thus, 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. However, procedurally, a sister state judgment is enforced in California pursuant to California law. In general, a sister state judgment cannot be enforced in California until it is "domesticated" (or registered) in California as a California judgment in accordance with the Sister State Money‑Judgments Act (the "SSMJA").

Under the SSMJA, a money judgment obtained in another state may be filed with a California court, and a California judgment is entered immediately. Once served on the judgment debtor, it becomes enforceable, and a writ of execution is generally issued.

After service of the judgment, the judgment debtor has 30 days to file and serve a motion to vacate the judgment. But the judgment may only be vacated upon certain specified and proven grounds: (1) the sister state court (that entered the judgment) lacked either subject matter or personal jurisdiction over the defendant; (2) there is an appeal of the judgment pending in the sister state; (3) the sister state court has granted a stay of enforcement, or (4) there is a motion to vacate the judgment pending in the sister state.