AUTHENTICATING A SISTER STATE JUDGMENT
What is the procedure to enforce an out-of-state judgment in California?
The process to authenticate an out-of-state judgment in California is fairly simple. A sister state judgment is not enforceable in California until it has been registered or authenticated as a California judgment in accordance with the Sister State Money-Judgments Act, California Code of Civil Procedure §1710.10 et seq., or by filing a lawsuit to establish the judgment in California. The Sister State Money Judgments Act provides a fast and relatively inexpensive procedure for authenticating out of state money judgments. If the out of state judgment is a non-money judgment which requires the performance of some act (such as conveyance of real property or repossession of personal property) then a separate lawsuit must be filed to register the judgment.
How is the enforcement process initiated?
An Application for Entry of Judgment form (EJ-105) and Notice of Entry of Judgment form (EJ-110) are filed with the Superior Court in the county where the judgment debtor resides or in any county if the debtor is a non-resident. If the debtor is a non-resident it would make sense to file in the county where the debtor has assets for ease of later judgment enforcement actions. The Application for Entry of Judgment requires that a certified copy of the sister state judgment be attached to the application as an exhibit. The form also requires that the debtor’s last known residential address, or place of incorporation or principal place of business be provided. The applicant must state the interest on the judgment allowed by the sister state and cite the law establishing that interest rate. Finally the applicant must state the balance due under the judgment including the cost of the filing fee and accrued interest at the interest rate allowed by the sister state.
How is judgment entered?
When the application is filed the court clerk must enter a judgment for the total amount shown on the application. The judgment is entered in the same manner as an original judgment of the court and has the same effect. Upon entry of judgment interest starts to accrue at California’s rate of interest which is 10% per year. [CCP §1710.25(b), §1710.35]
When can the California judgment be enforced?
The Notice of Entry of Judgment form (EJ-110) must be served on the judgment debtor in the same manner as a summons. The proof of service must be filed with the court. Once the judgment debtor is served with the Notice of Entry of Judgment, the debtor has thirty days to file a motion to vacate the judgment. [CCP §1710.45(a)] If a motion to vacate has not been filed and thirty days from the date of service has expired, then the judgment creditor can take actions to enforce the judgment in any manner authorized by law. In certain limited circumstances set forth in CCP §1710.45(b) the court will not require a 30-day hold on enforcement.
How much does it cost and how long does it take to get a sister state money judgment authenticated as a California judgment?
The filing fee for filing an application for entry of judgment is currently $435 in most counties. The time to prepare the application and notice of entry of judgment is typically around an hour when the client has a certified copy of the judgment and other information available. The costs for service of process will depend on how difficult it is to locate and serve the debtor, but service of process costs range between $50 to $100 for an easy serve. Accordingly, the total cost including court filing fee, service of process expenses and attorney’s fees shouldn’t be more than $1,000 to authenticate a sister state money judgment as a California Judgment. Additional fees and costs will apply if a motion to vacate is filed and for enforcing the judgment. This judgment authentication process usually takes between 45 to 75 days, which includes the 30-day enforcement hold.