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Are all Sister State Judgments recognized in California?

California recognizes Money Judgments entered in other states.  California law describes a Sister State Judgment as “that part of any judgment, decree, or order of a court of a state of the United States, other than California, which requires the payment of money, but does not include a support order …. “.  Notice the broad language that includes “decree, or order”.   Generally any Sister State Court Judgment, Order or Decree that orders Money paid qualifies for enforcement.  The Judgment, Order or Decree should name a specific Judgment Debtor and identify a specific Judgment Creditor.

How is a Sister State Money Judgment Enforced?

First we must file an Application with the Court to recognize the Sister State Money Judgment. The proper county is where the judgment debtor resides, or in any county if the Judgment Debtor doesn’t reside in California but does have property, assets, income, operations, accounts, or debts owing to it in California.

What does Authenticated or Exemplified mean?

The Application must attach a properly “authenticated” or “exemplified” copy of the Sister State judgment. This is different than a mere “certified” copy.  An Authenticated or Exemplified copy of a judgment generally has certifications of both the clerk of the home state court and the judge of the home state court.  Here are some examples: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3.

How soon is a California Judgment Entered?

When the application is filed, the Clerk of the California court enters a California Judgment immediately based on the Application in the amount remaining unpaid under the Sister State Judgment, plus the accrued interest and the California filing fee.  Up to this point, no notice is given to the Judgment Debtor.

What Notice does the Debtor Get before the Sister State Judgment is enforceable?

Before the newly entered California Judgment can be enforced, California law requires the debtor be served with a Notice of Entry of Sister State Judgment and the Application.  The notice informs the Judgment Debtor that he/she/it has 30 days to file a “motion to vacate” the judgment. During this 30 days, no enforcement can be attempted and the clerk of the California Court will not issue enforcement documents.

What claims can a debtor make to avoid a Sister State Judgment?

Within those 30 days the Judgment Debtor can file a “Motion to Vacate” your Judgment in California but only based “on any ground which would be a defense to an action in this state on the sister state judgment. 

Does the Debtor get a new trial in California?

NO!. This does not mean the Judgment Debtor gets a new trial.  You will not have to come to California .  You will not need witnesses here or have another trial here.  The liability of the underlying case is already established in the Sister State Judgment.  The Sister State Judgment can only be challenged on very limited grounds such as it is a forged judgment, original improper service of process, lack of jurisdiction in the Sister State and several other procedural grounds.  Such challenges are not ordinarily seen where service of process is strong and the effort to enter the Sister State Judgment is timely.

Are there other ways for a Sister State Judgment Debtor to Stall the Judgment?

Challenges or requests for a “Stay of Execution” (request to not let you move forward with enforcement)  can occur because a “stay” was granted in the originating state or an appeal is pending or may be taken in the state which originally entered the judgment.   Another catchall clause allows a stay in California where “Any other circumstance exists where the interests of justice require a stay of enforcement.”  These are rare and usually only occur where the original judgment may not pass a “sniff test”.   

Are there any exceptions to having to give notice and wait 30 days after?

There are three big exceptions to serving advance Notice to the Judgment Debtor.  

First, if the Judgment Debtor is an individual and does not reside in California; and

Second, if the Judgment Debtor is an entity (corporation, LLC, partnership) and is not qualified to do business in California.  (This is shown on the Secretary of State’s website); and

Third, where you can prove that “great or irreparable injury”  would result to the Judgment Creditor if the issuance of the enforcement documents were delayed.  This generally means that there is a danger that the Debtor will hide, conceal, convey, or encumber assets if given notice.  The proof requirement is rigorous and character, suspicion or past history usually aren’t enough.     

Is a Sister State Money Judgment as good as a California Judgment?

YES! After 30 days without a Motion to Vacate or Stay Enforcement, the Sister State Money Judgment has
“the same effect as an original money judgment” of a California Court.  At that stage we record liens on personal property and real property and get enforcement documents and orders and continue attempts to collect your money.


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