John Watson Law Group LLC

Judgments

The end result of all litigation is a final order or ruling by the court, commonly known as a judgment.  This is often only the first step in the process of enforcing a monetary obligation, and, unfortunately often the easiest. 

Some types of cases do not generally present enforcement issues.  For example, in a personal injury case where there is insurance, the judgment is usually paid or settled once the judgment is final, i.e., appeals have run their course.  Similarly, large companies often resolve their judgments without further action.  In fact, most of these types of cases, and all cases for that matter, are settled or compromised before trial and judgment. 

Then we have the average commercial case involving small to medium businesses.  Although emotion and litigation are a poor mix, emotions are often high.  Sometimes the defendant is either lacking adequate cash flow, under-capitalized, without funds, or simply a deadbeat who thinks he is a professional debtor.  This is where experience and knowledge of the often esoteric nuts and bolts of the enforcement mechanisms become important.

The first thing that should be done when a judgment is final is to request the court to issue a writ of execution.  In Georgia, this is called a Writ of Fiere Facias, or fi fa for short.  Once this is recorded on the General Execution Docket (GED) in Georgia, it becomes a lien in the county where recorded on all real estate owned or subsequently acquired by the judgment debtor for the life of the judgment.  It can be recorded in multiple counties, as needed, as was the sample fi fa linked above.  Judgments can generally be renewed.  In Georgia, for example, a judgment is good for seven years but can be renewed as necessary.

Without going into great detail at this point, other enforcement tools are post judgment discovery of assets, garnishments, sheriff’s levy and sale of property pursuant to the fi fa, suits to set aside fraudulent conveyances, actions to attack bulk sales violations, personal property foreclosure against secured assets, seizure of corporate shares, judgment liens on automobiles, etc.

 Enforcement of Foreign Judgments

 The term “foreign judgment” as commonly used encompasses judgments rendered by other states in the United States as well as judgments issued outside the United States.  Georgia has statutory procedures for “domesticating” these judgments.  Once they are recognized, they are enforceable as any other Georgia judgment.

Judgments rendered in other states within the United States may be recordable under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Law, as adopted in Georgia.  This Act is based upon reciprocity.  If the state rendering the judgment has adopted the Act, then Georgia’s procedure offers a relatively quick and painless method for recording the foreign judgment here as a Georgia judgment.  The states who have adopted this Act can be found in Ga. Code Ann., T. 9, Ch. 12, Art. 6, Refs & Annos.  All but a very few states have adopted the Act.

If there is no reciprocity, the foreign judgment can still be domesticated by filing suit on the foreign judgment.  Defenses are limited, but this procedure takes a little longer.

 A non-US judgment, such as from England or Germany, for example, may be enforceable under the Georgia Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act, if the required parameters are met.

The client will need to provide a certified and exemplified copy of the judgment.  If in a foreign language, a certified translation is also needed.

 

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