More and more frequently I speak to judgment creditors with a judgment issued by a state other than Florida or from a jurisdiction outside the United States. The process of registering that judgment in Florida is called domestication. Once domesticated, the foreign judgment is given full faith and credit and is enforceable by Florida courts to the same extent as a Florida judgment.
The issue that I notice more frequently is that some judgments issued by other state and foreign jurisdictions won’t meet the requirements of due process and the US Constitution when it comes to the question of whether the issuing court had personal jurisdiction over the defendant/debtor. Florida’s domestication or registration process recognizes the judgment debtor’s ability to contest the enforceability of the judgment at any time for lack of the original court’s jurisdiction over the judgment debtor.
Let me explain by example. Some states provide very liberal jurisdiction (long-arm) statues which provide that those states have jurisdiction over non-resident persons or entities. Provided certain circumstances are met, whether or not the defendant/debtor was subject to the jurisdiction of the foreign court can be raised for the first time in Florida. This defense is an exercise in the US Constitutional limitations on due process grounds.
As an illustration, an Arizona resident or business has a contract dispute with a Florida individual or corporation. The Florida individual or corporation does not have an office in Arizona nor has the Floridian ever done business in Arizona. If the agreement does not state where venue and jurisdiction is for any dispute between the parties, can an Arizonian sue the Floridian in an Arizona court? Perhaps Arizona law permits this; I am not a licensed Arizona attorney and do not know Arizona law. However, as soon as you bring your Arizona judgment to Florida to collect it, the judgment debtor will object that they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Arizona courts. Florida law permits the judgment debtor in this example to raise this defense at any time (provided it hasn’t been waived in some fashion). Now you, as the judgment creditor, have shown your cards in your collection attempt and you are barred from collection based upon jurisdictional grounds. You are left with only two options. 1.) You must reinstitiute your suit in a Florida court in the jurisdiction where the debtor resides, has assets or has an office for the conduct of its business. Caution: This may subject you to counterclaims in Florida. Alternatively, 2.) You can attempt to collect only against assets of the debtor located in the issuing court’s jurisdiction.
Before you hire an attorney to help you bring your judgment to Florida, make sure they consult with you on the issue of the originating court’s jurisdiction. Because this is such a tricky area of the law, make sure you hire an attorney with experience in dealing with the nuiances of this area of practice. If you would like to the speak with an attorney about the collection of your judgment, please call. We also represent Defendant/Debtors attempting to avoid domestication.
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