Enforcement of Sister State Money Judgments in California

  It is fundamental that a judgment of a sister state must be given full faith and credit if that sister state had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, and all interested parties were given reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard.  To fulfill this mandate in California a sister state or foreign money judgment may be registered and enforced pursuant to the Sister State and Foreign Money-Judgment Act (SSFMJA) codified at Code of Civil Procedure sections 1710.10-1710.65.

  The Act provides the statutory framework whereby such judgments can be expeditiously and economically enforced through registration in California. The resulting California judgment has the same effect as an original California money judgment and may be enforced or satisfied in like manner. An application for entry of a sister state judgment under the SSFMJA is not the exclusive means to enforce the sister state judgment. As an alternative, such enforcement may be sought through a traditional lawsuit.

  Enforcement through registration under the Act is available except when: 1) A stay of enforcement is currently in effect in the sister state; 2) An action based on the judgment is currently pending in California; 3) A judgment based on the sister state judgment has previously been entered in California.

  Domestication of the judgment pursuant to the SSFMJA is a special proceeding in which a judgment creditor may apply for the entry of a judgment by filing an application pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1710.20.  Entry of judgment is a ministerial act. The clerk enters judgment based upon the application for the total of the following amounts: 1) The amount remaining unpaid under the sister state judgment; 2) The amount of interest accrued on the sister state judgment (computed at the rate of interest applicable to the judgment under the law of the sister state); and, 3) The amount of the filing fee for filing the application.

  In order to satisfy due process requirements notice of entry of judgment shall be served promptly by the judgment creditor upon the judgment debtor in the manner provided for service of summons. The notice shall inform the judgment debtor that the judgment debtor has 30 days within which to make a motion to vacate the judgment. Not later than 30 days after service of notice of entry of judgment, on written notice to the judgment creditor, the judgment debtor may make a motion to vacate the judgment.

  In Conseco Marketing v. IFA and Insurance Services the court was presented with three issues when a debtor sought to challenge the registration of a sister state judgment.

  1) Is a judgment creditor which is a foreign limited liability company required to qualify to do business in California as a precondition to applying for entry of a sister state judgment under the SSFMJA? No. Pursuant to Corporations Code section 17001 a foreign limited liability company shall not be considered to be transacting intrastate business solely by reason of its maintaining or defending an action or suit or securing or collecting debts. A judgment creditor, therefore, which is a foreign limited liability company does not have to qualify to do business in California in order to enforce a sister state judgment under the SSFMJA because in proceeding under the SSFMJA the judgment creditor is maintaining an action for the sole purpose of  collecting a debt.

  2) Is the 30-day limit to make a motion to vacate the judgment triggered by service on a corporate judgment debtor’s designated agent for service, without regard to when the judgment debtor obtained “actual notice” of entry of the sister state judgment under the SSFMJA? Yes. Service on the designated agent, not a judgment debtor’s “actual notice,” triggers the 30-day limit for making a motion to vacate the judgment, so long as the judgment debtor was effectively served with process in the sister state action. The omission of the SSFMJA to provide for notice and hearing before entry of the sister state judgment does not render such judgment unconstitutional because after notice of entry of that judgment, the judgment debtor may make a motion to vacate the judgment.

  3) Is Code of Civil Procedure section 473.5, which is a procedural remedy regarding relief from default or default judgment, applicable to the SSFMJA? No. Section 473.5 is inapplicable to a judgment entered under the SSFMJA because such a judgment is not a default or default judgment.

  A sister state judgment entered pursuant to the SSFMJA may be vacated on any ground which would be a defense to an action in this state on the sister state judgment. Common defenses to enforcement of a sister state judgment include the following: 1) The judgment is not final and unconditional; 2) The judgment was obtained by extrinsic fraud; 3) The judgment was rendered in excess of jurisdiction; 4) The judgment is not enforceable in the state of rendition; 5) The plaintiff is guilty of misconduct; 6) The judgment has been paid; 7) Suit on the judgment is barred by the statute of limitations in the state where enforcement is sought; and, 8) The judgment is void for lack of fundamental jurisdiction in the sister state.


  Mr. Daymude consults with clients and accepts cases involving the enforcement and defense of sister state and foreign money judgments under the Sister State and Foreign Money-Judgment Act (SSFMJA). For other types of cases accepted, please scroll the Home and My Practice pages. If you are seeking a legal consultation or representation, call Michael Daymude at 818-971-9409.

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