Thursday, April 26, 2012
Domestication & Enforcement of Foreign Judgments [judgments entered by courts of other countries to which full-faith-and-credit clause of US constitution does not apply]
THE UNIFORM FOREIGN MONEY-JUDGMENTS RECOGNITION ACT
When is recognition / nonrecognition proper? What are grounds for avoiding recognition?
Under the Uniform Foreign Money–Judgments Recognition Act (the “Act”), a judgment creditor may seek recognition of a foreign country judgment  in Texas by filing a final, authenticated copy of the foreign country judgment in the judgment debtor’s county of residence. Sanchez v. Palau, 317 S.W.3d 780, 785 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. denied) (citing TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. §§ 36.0041–42 (Vernon 2008)).
The Act applies to a foreign country judgment that “is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered, even though an appeal is pending or the judgment is subject to appeal.” TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 36.002(a)(1) (Vernon 2008).
The Act further provides that when a qualifying foreign country judgment is filed in accord with the Act, notice of the filing is given as provided by the Act, and a foreign country judgment is not otherwise “refused recognition” under the Act, then the judgment is “is conclusive between the parties to the extent that it grants or denies recovery of a sum of money” and is “enforceable in the same manner as a judgment of a sister state that is entitled to full faith and credit.” See id. § 36.004 (Vernon 2008).
The Act sets forth the grounds for “nonrecognition” of a foreign country judgment. See id. § 36.005 (Vernon 2008). Relevant to the instant case, a foreign country judgment is “not conclusive” if it “was rendered under a system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law.” See id. § 36.005(a)(1). And a foreign country judgment “need not be recognized” if “the proceeding in the foreign country court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute in question was to be settled otherwise than by proceedings in that court.” See id. § 36.005(b)(5). A party contesting recognition of a foreign country judgment may file and serve a motion for nonrecognition no later than the 30th day after the date of service of the notice of filing of judgment is provided under the Act. See id. § 36.0044(a) (Vernon 2008). The party filing the motion for nonrecognition shall include with the motion all supporting affidavits, briefs, and other documentation; the party opposing the motion must file any response, including supporting affidavits, briefs, and other documentation not later than the 20th day after the date of service on that party of a copy of the motion for nonrecognition. See id. § 36.0044(b), (c).
The party seeking to avoid recognition has the burden of proving a ground for nonrecognition and, unless that party satisfies his burden of proof by establishing one or more of the specific grounds for nonrecognition, the court is required to recognize the foreign country judgment. Courage Co. v. Chemshare Corp., 93 S.W.3d 323, 331 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, no pet.). By limiting the defenses available to a judgment debtor, the Act creates standards for recognizing foreign country judgments and prevents parties from relitigating issues that were conclusively settled by courts of foreign countries, unless such issues create an exception to recognition. Beluga Chartering, B.V. v. Timber S.A., 294 S.W.3d 300, 304 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, no pet.); Dart v. Balaam, 953 S.W.2d 478, 480 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1997, no writ). A trial court’s enforcement of a foreign country judgment presents a question of law, and, thus, we review de novo a trial court’s recognition of a foreign country judgment. Sanchez, 317 S.W.3d at 785; Courage Co., 93 S.W.3d at 331.
Recognition of a foreign country judgment under the Act “does not require that the procedures used in the courts of a foreign country be identical to those used in the courts of the United States.” The Society of Lloyds v. Webb, 156 F.Supp.2d 632, 639–40 (N.D. Tex. 2001). Rather, the Act requires only that the foreign procedures are “compatible with the requirements of due process of law” and do “not offend against basic fairness.” Id. at 640 (internal quotations and citations omitted). To establish a prima facie case that conclusive effect should be given to a foreign country judgment, courts have explained that a party may demonstrate that “the rendering court had jurisdiction over the person and subject matter, that there was timely notice and an opportunity to present a defense, that no fraud was involved, that the proceedings were according to a civilized jurisprudence are the same for both favored and nonfavored systems.” Id. (citation omitted).
SOURCE: HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS - 1ST DIST - 01-11-00636-CV - 4/26/12
The record reflects that Presley appeared in the Belgium court proceedings, and the Belgium courts considered and addressed Presley’s arguments that the entire matter should be submitted to arbitration pursuant to the joint venture agreement’s arbitration clause. The record further reflects that the Belgium courts ruled that Presley’s counterclaim for breach of the joint venture agreement against Masureel should be pursued in arbitration. Although Presley disputes the Belgium court’s determination that Masureel’s request for reimbursement under the loan agreements and the other disputes arising from the joint venture agreement are not “indivisible,” we conclude that the record does not support Presley’s assertions that the Belgium courts failed to provide her with an impartial tribunal and the procedures used by the Belgium courts were “incompatible” with due process of law. Presley has not cited any authority for the proposition that a ruling like that reached by the Belgium courts under the circumstance here, in which Presley was directed to pursue her affirmative claims in accord with an arbitration clause, renders the foreign country’s procedures fundamentally unfair.  In sum, we hold that the trial court did not err in recognizing the Belgium court’s judgment on the ground that it was rendered under a system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law. See id. § 36.005(a)(1).
We overrule Presley’s first and second issues.