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Case Style: Manco Contracting Co. (W.W.L.) v. Krikor Bezdikian
Case Number: S154076
Court: California Supreme Court on appeal from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Plaintiff's Attorney: Benedon & Serlin, Gerald M. Serlin and Douglas G. Benedon for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack, Walter L. Lack and Steven C. Shuman for Renato Guimaraes, Jr., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.
Defendant's Attorney: Revere & Wallace, Frank Revere, Gabriel S. Dermer; Roxborough, Pomerance & Nye, Gary A. Nye and Michael G. Kline for Defendant and Respondent.
Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, A. Kristine Floyd and Robert C. Shaia for Northrop Grumman Corporation as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.
Description: In this case we decide when a foreign judgment is final for purposes of recognition under the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (UFMJRA) (Code Civ. Proc., former § 1713.1 et seq., added by Stats. 1967, ch. 503, § 1, p. 1847, repealed by Stats. 2007, ch. 212, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 2008)1 and what statute of limitations applies.
The UFMJRA authorizes recognition of “any foreign judgment that is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered even though an appeal therefrom is pending or it is subject to appeal.” (Former § 1713.2.) When a foreign judgment is appealed, and the foreign nation’s law provides that a judgment on
appeal is not final, does section 1713.2 permit a California court to recognize the judgment? We conclude the answer is no. The most reasonable interpretation of the admittedly confusing statutory language is that the law of the nation where the judgment was rendered determines whether the judgment is sufficiently final, conclusive, and enforceable to be subject to recognition in California. If the foreign nation’s rule is that judgments are final even though an appeal is pending, a judgment may be recognized in California despite an appeal. If the foreign rule is that judgments are not final while an appeal is pending, a judgment on appeal cannot be recognized in California. This interpretation is consistent with the conclusions reached by other states applying the uniform act and the apparent intent of the commissioners who drafted it.
The UFMJRA does not prescribe a statute of limitations for actions to recognize foreign judgments.2 However, the act does provide (with one exception not relevant here) that a “foreign judgment is enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit.” (Former § 1713.3.) An action to enforce a sister state judgment is subject to a 10-year statute of limitations (§ 337.5). It appears section 1713.3 reflects the Legislature’s intent to apply the same limitations period to the enforcement of judgments from foreign nations. A 10-year limitations period is also consistent with the 10-year period of enforceability for California judgments. (§ 683.020; see also § 683.110 et seq. [providing for extension of the 10-year enforceability period by renewal of the judgment].) Over a century ago, this court did hold in Dore v. Thornburgh (1891) 90 Cal. 64 that the four-year “catchall” limitations period of section 343 applied to an action to recover upon a foreign judgment. However, Dore was decided long before the Legislature enacted the UFMJRA. Thus, it is no longer controlling.
On November 16, 1997, the Qatari company Manco Contracting Co. (W.L.L.) (Manco) obtained a multimillion-dollar judgment against Krikor Bezdikian in the Grand Civil Court of Doha, in the nation of Qatar. Bezdikian appealed from the judgment, then left the country. He now lives in California. On May 23, 2000, a Qatari appellate court amended the judgment, reducing the award from more than $4.2 million to approximately $3.76 million. The Qatari appellate court issued a new judgment awarding Manco this new amount plus “a reasonable share of court expenses” and an amount for attorney fees.
On May 20, 2004, Manco filed a complaint in the Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking to domesticate its Qatari judgment under the UFMJRA. Bezdikian sought summary judgment, arguing that the cause of action accrued in 1997, and was therefore barred by the four-year statute of limitations of section 343, which both sides believed applied. (See Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, 90 Cal. 64, 66-67.)
In response, Manco submitted an expert declaration stating that, under Qatari law, a judgment is “never final” before conclusion of an appeal unless the parties previously agreed to treat the judgment as final, the judgment is nonappealable, or the time for appeal has expired. Thus, Manco maintained its cause of action did not accrue until May 23, 2000, when the Qatari appellate court issued its amended judgment. The trial court rejected this argument. Based on the analysis in Korea Water Resources Corp. v. Lee (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 389 (Korea Water), the court interpreted section 1713.2 to provide that the UFMJRA permits recognition of a foreign judgment that has been appealed, or is subject to appeal, regardless of whether the foreign country recognizes it as “final” under such circumstances. Accordingly, the court concluded Manco’s cause of action for recognition accrued in November 1997, when the Qatari trial court entered judgment against Bezdikian.
The Court of Appeal reversed. Disagreeing with Korea Water, the court interpreted section 1713.2 to mean that a foreign judgment is not subject to recognition under the UFMJRA unless and until it is final, conclusive, and enforceable under the law where the judgment was rendered. If the foreign jurisdiction’s law does not consider a judgment to be final while it is on appeal, then a claim under section 1713.2 to recognize the judgment cannot be brought until after the appellate process has ended. The Court of Appeal concluded the expert testimony offered by Manco raised a triable issue of fact about whether the initial judgment was sufficiently “final” and “conclusive” under Qatari law to satisfy section 1713.2, and therefore summary judgment should have been denied. Because the court’s interpretation of section 1713.2 meant that Manco’s claim was timely even under the four-year statute of limitations of section 343, the Court of Appeal did not consider Manco’s additional arguments, raised for the first time on appeal, that no statute of limitations applies to a recognition action, or, alternatively, that the 10-year limitations period applicable to enforcement of sister state judgments (§ 337.5) is controlling.3
We granted review to resolve both the accrual and statute of limitations questions.
I. When a Foreign Judgment Is Final Under the UFMJRA
California adopted the UFMJRA in 1967. Before the Legislature codified the provisions of this uniform act, the recognition and enforcement of foreign money judgments proceeded as a matter of comity. (Renoir v. Redstar Corp. (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1150; see Hilton v. Guyot (1895) 159 U.S. 113, 202-203, 205-206.) Comity remains the basis for recognizing foreign judgments not covered by the act, such as domestic relations judgments. (§§ 1715, subd. (b)(3), 1723; see In re Stephanie M. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 295, 314 [observing, with respect to Mexican child custody decree, that “courts of this state may, but are not required to, execute the judgment of a foreign nation as a matter of comity”].) The purpose of the uniform act was to codify the most prevalent common law rules for recognizing foreign money judgments and thereby encourage the reciprocal recognition of United States judgments in other countries. (13 pt. II West’s U. Laws Ann. (2002) U. Foreign Money-Judg. Recognition Act, Prefatory Note, p. 40 (uniform act).) Many civil law countries make the recognition of foreign judgments dependent upon reciprocity. Drafters of the uniform act believed codification of uniform rules would satisfy foreign reciprocity concerns and encourage greater recognition and enforcement of American judgments abroad. (Ibid.; see also Bank of Montreal v. Kough (N.D.Cal. 1977) 430 F.Supp. 1243, 1249 [“The purpose of the Uniform Act was to create greater recognition of the state’s judgments in foreign nations. This was to be accomplished by informing the foreign nations of particular situations in which their judgments would definitely be recognized, and thus encourage them to recognize California judgments”].)
The dispute here centers on the meaning of section 1713.2, which describes the type of foreign judgments that may be recognized under the UFMJRA. Section 1713.2 states: “This chapter applies to  any foreign judgment that is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered  even though an appeal therefrom is pending or it is subject to appeal.” (Former § 1713.2.) California courts have disagreed about the extent to which the second clause undermines the first.
The Court of Appeal in this case gave primacy to the first clause, interpreting section 1713.2 “to consider a foreign judgment final, despite an appeal, if it is otherwise ‘final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered.’ (§ 1713.2, italics added.)” The court observed that, unlike California, some foreign jurisdictions consider a judgment to be final and conclusive even if subject to appeal or modification. Recognizing these differences, the Court of Appeal interpreted section 1713.2 to mean that, in all cases, recognition of a foreign judgment depends upon the judgment’s finality, conclusiveness, and enforceability in the country where rendered, even if the foreign country’s rules are different from those we apply in California.
The opposite conclusion was reached in Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th 389. There, the court termed the second clause of section 1713.2 the “appellate caveat.” Giving primacy to the “caveat,” the Korea Water court interpreted the statute to mean “California . . . will recognize foreign judgments that are final, conclusive, and enforceable, notwithstanding the fact they may still be subject to appellate review,” regardless of the foreign law on this point. (Korea Water, supra, at p. 398.) The Korea Water court recognized that there is considerable tension between the two clauses. Its attempt to reconcile them ultimately fails the tests of logic and practicality, however. The court observed, “section 1713.2’s reference to a final, conclusive and enforceable judgment ‘where rendered’ makes it clear it is the status of the foreign judgment in the foreign country that determines whether the judgment is ripe for recognition in California.” (Ibid.) Yet it ultimately undermined this observation by concluding that the “appellate caveat” language was meant to override any contrary foreign law concerning the effect of an appeal: “The appellate caveat to section 1713.2 makes it clear that the fact that a foreign judgment is still vulnerable to change on appeal in the foreign country is not alone enough to preclude recognition of a foreign judgment which is otherwise final, conclusive, and enforceable in the foreign country.” (Ibid., second italics added.) The court appeared to say that we look to foreign law to decide whether a judgment is final, conclusive and enforceable, but if, under foreign law, the judgment is not final because of a pending or a potential appeal, we ignore foreign law and recognize the judgment anyway.
The Korea Water court went on to apply this principle in the case before it, which involved a multimillion-dollar Korean judgment. (Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at p. 394.) After the judgment was affirmed by Korea’s intermediate appellate court, the judgment creditor filed a recognition action in California and obtained a writ of attachment on the judgment debtor’s assets in this state. (Id. at pp. 394-395.) However, the appellate process in Korea was not finished. The judgment debtor moved for summary judgment in the recognition action on the ground that the Korean judgment was not final, conclusive, and enforceable in Korea because it was on appeal before the Korea Supreme Court. (Id. at p. 395.)
He relied on article 471 (1) of the Korean code of civil procedure, which states that a Korean judgment “ ‘shall not become final and conclusive during the period in which an appeal may be filed or when a lawful appeal has been filed within the prescribed period.’ ” (Korea Water, supra, at p. 399.) The trial court did not dismiss the recognition proceeding but stayed it, pursuant to section 1713.6,4 to await the Korea Supreme Court’s ruling. (Korea Water, supra, at p. 395.) Later, after the Korea Supreme Court rejected the legal theory of liability on which the case had been tried, “canceled” the intermediate appellate court’s judgment, and remanded the case for a new trial, the California trial court concluded the Korean judgment was no longer final, conclusive, and enforceable for purposes of allowing recognition here. (Ibid.) It therefore dismissed the recognition action and discharged the writ of attachment. (Ibid.)
The Court of Appeal agreed the recognition action was properly dismissed because the judgment at issue had been largely undermined by the decision of the Korea Supreme Court. (Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at p. 402.) The Korea Supreme Court’s ruling had rendered the judgment “uncertain not only as to amount but also as to whether it is supported by a viable legal theory.” (Ibid.) As a result, the Court of Appeal concluded the judgment was not sufficiently “conclusive,” under section 1713.2, to be recognized in California. (Korea Water, supra, at pp. 402-403.)
However, the Court of Appeal also discussed whether the recognition action should have been dismissed previously because the judgment was not “final and conclusive” under Korean law when it was on appeal. (Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at pp. 399-400.)5 The court did not consider Korea’s law on finality determinative. It reasoned that doing so “would in effect be eviscerating the appellate caveat provision of section 1713.2.” (Korea Water, supra, at p. 399.)
In other words, the court interpreted section 1713.2 to mean that “California has chosen not to preclude recognition merely because the judgment is subject to appellate review” (Korea Water, supra, at p. 400), even if this result is directly contrary to the law of the country where the judgment was rendered.
Perhaps recognizing the practical difficulties this interpretation could impose—difficulties which were in fact presented in the case before it, when the Korea Supreme Court overturned the very judgment a California court was prepared to recognize—the Court of Appeal posited that the Legislature must have included the “appellate caveat” to give judgment creditors access to provisional remedies. (Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at pp. 401-402.) Under the court’s view, a party could bring a recognition action to obtain provisional remedies to satisfy an appealed foreign judgment. The court could then stay the action until conclusion of the appellate process to avoid preserving a foreign judgment that might later be reversed. (Id. at p. 401.) The problem is there is no basis in legislative history, or elsewhere, to indicate that this process was contemplated or intended. On the contrary, as we have explained, the stated purpose of the uniform act was to satisfy the reciprocity concerns of foreign nations and encourage them to recognize judgments from the United States. (13 pt. II West’s U. Laws Ann., supra, U. Foreign Money-Judg. Recognition Act, matter jurisdiction. (Former § 1713.4, subd. (a)(1)-(3).) To the extent that “conclusive” differs from “final” in section 1713.2, these are the only statutory grounds for finding a foreign judgment inconclusive. (Cf. Kam-Tech Systems Ltd. v. Yardeni (2001) 340 N.J.Super. 414, 422 [774 A.2d 644, 649] [under New Jersey’s enactment of the uniform act, “courts must recognize a final foreign country judgment for money damages as ‘conclusive between the parties,’ [citation] unless the judgment debtor establishes one of the specific grounds for non-recognition that are enumerated in the Act”].) The facts of this case do not require us to decide precisely how finality differs from conclusiveness under section 1713.2. Prefatory Note, p. 40.) Korea Water’s interpretation of section 1713.2 appears to run counter to this goal of international cooperation because it would permit California courts to override foreign law with respect to the finality of a judgment pending on appeal.
We believe the better interpretation of section 1713.2 is the one reached by the Court of Appeal here. That is, California courts must recognize a foreign judgment, regardless of whether it has been appealed or is subject to appeal, so long as the judgment is final, conclusive, and enforceable in the country where it was rendered. The statutory language requiring recognition “even though an appeal therefrom is pending or [the judgment] is subject to appeal” (former § 1713.2) is not an exception to the requirements of finality, conclusiveness, and enforceability in the nation of origin. Rather, this language is meant to amplify the directive that finality, conclusiveness, and enforceability are to be assessed based on the law of the foreign jurisdiction where judgment was rendered. In other words, the “appellate caveat” operates to ensure that foreign rules regarding finality are honored, even if they differ from the California approach.
A cursory review of cases under the uniform act reveals that foreign countries have different standards governing when a judgment is final. (Compare S.C. Chimexim S.A. v. Velco Enterprises Ltd. (S.D.N.Y. 1999) 36 F.Supp.2d 206, 213 [Romanian law regards a judgment as final despite a pending appeal]; Dart v. Dart (1997) 224 Mich.App. 146, 153-154 [568 N.W.2d 353, 357] [English law regards a judgment as final even though it is subject to appeal or subsequent modification] with Mayekawa Manufacturing Co. v. Sasaki (1995) 76 Wn.App. 791, 797 [888 P.2d 183, 187] [under Japanese law, the lodging of an appeal prevents a judgment from becoming final].) Indeed, even in this country, federal and state laws may differ about when a judgment is final, conclusive, and enforceable. While in California a judgment is not final and conclusive between the parties when it is on appeal, or for as long as it remains subject to appeal, the federal rule is contrary. (Franklin & Franklin v. 7-Eleven Owners for Fair Franchising (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 1168, 1174; Sandoval v. Superior Court (1983) 140 Cal.App.3d 932, 936-937; see Nathanson v. Hecker (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1158, 1163, fn. 1 [explaining difference between California and federal law on finality].) By clarifying that a foreign judgment must be recognized in California if it is regarded as final under the rendering country’s law, even though it has been appealed or is subject to appeal, the Legislature apparently sought to deter a judicial impulse to apply California’s own, potentially contrary, understanding of when a judgment becomes final. If a foreign jurisdiction’s law provides that a judgment is final and conclusive despite an appeal, section 1713.2 requires California courts to recognize a judgment from that jurisdiction unless certain grounds for nonrecognition apply (see former §§ 1713.4-1713.5). However, in such cases section 1713.6 gives the court discretion to stay the recognition proceedings until all foreign appeals have concluded.
This interpretation is generally consistent with decisions reached in other states that have adopted the uniform act. For example, in Dart v. Dart, supra, 568 N.W.2d at page 357 (applying Michigan law) and S.C. Chimexim S.A. v. Velco Enterprises Ltd., supra, 36 F.Supp.2d at page 213 (applying New York law), the courts concluded foreign judgments could be recognized under the act, despite the fact that the judgments were on appeal (Chimexim) or subject to modification (Dart), because they were final under the laws of the countries where they were rendered. Our interpretation is also consistent with the one decision we have found that addresses the precise issue before us, i.e., whether the uniform act permits recognition of a foreign judgment that is not final under the law of the foreign jurisdiction where judgment was entered. In Mayekawa Manufacturing Co. v. Sasaki, supra, 888 P.2d at pages 184-185, a party sought recognition of a Japanese money judgment that stated it could be “ ‘preliminarily’ ” enforced. However, the judgment resulted from a special proceeding to which objections had been lodged, and Japanese law provided that a judgment does not “ ‘become final and conclusive’ ” until the time for taking an appeal or lodging an objection has expired. (Id. at p. 187.) Based on Washington’s version of the uniform act’s applicability provision, which mirrors our section 1713.2,6 the court concluded it could not recognize the Japanese judgment. (Mayekawa Manufacturing Co. v. Sasaki, supra, at p. 188.) Although the judgment was “preliminarily enforceable,” it was not final and conclusive under Japanese law, and the Washington court considered this deficiency fatal to the recognition action. (Id. at pp. 187-188.)
The court observed, however, that its ruling did not preclude a later application for recognition after the judgment became final and conclusive in Japan. (Id. at p. 189.)
To our knowledge, no court or other authority has reached the conclusion in Korea Water that the uniform act’s requirement of a “final” judgment refers only to finality in the trial court, i.e., a judgment that is not interlocutory (Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at pp. 398-399). If the Legislature had intended to restrict the meaning of “final” in such a manner, it could have easily added the phrase “in the trial court” after “final.” Moreover, this interpretation of “final” would require California courts to recognize all noninterlocutory foreign judgments, regardless of whether such judgments are considered final under the law of the country “where [they were] rendered” (Former § 1713.2). The plain meaning of the statutory language requires California courts to look to the foreign jurisdiction’s law to assess the finality and conclusiveness of a judgment. When foreign law holds that a judgment is not final if it is interlocutory or if it is subject to appeal, section 1713.2 requires a California court to honor this procedural rule. We see no basis in the statute for courts to distinguish between the types of finality for which foreign law will be considered.7
It is also worth noting that the Legislature recently removed the “appellate caveat” language so heavily relied upon by Bezdikian here and by the Korea Water court. The newly enacted UFCMJRA (see ante, fn. 1) “applies to a foreigncountry judgment to the extent that the judgment both: [¶] (1) Grants or denies recovery of a sum of money. [¶] (2) Under the law of the foreign country where rendered, is final, conclusive, and enforceable.” (§ 1715, subd. (a).) Although provisions of the UFCMJRA apply only to recognition actions begun after the act’s effective date of January 1, 2008 (§ 1724), legislative history indicates the new uniform act was intended primarily to clarify provisions of the earlier act that had led to confusion. (See Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 639 (2007-2008 Reg. Sess.) May 8, 2007, p. 2 [“[Sen. Bill No.] 639 would, according to the sponsors, update and clarify the UFMJRA and correct problems created by the courts’ interpretations of various provisions of that Act over the years since its adoption in 1967”].)
Manco submitted evidence indicating the judgment in this case was not final under Qatari law until May 23, 2000, when the Qatari appellate court issued an amended judgment.8 Under section 1713.2, a cause of action to recognize the judgment could not have been maintained before its finality in 2000. Accordingly, Manco’s May 20, 2004 complaint seeking recognition of the judgment was timely even under the four-year statute of limitation of section 343, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. As we discuss next, however, section 343 does not furnish the limitations period for recognition actions.9
II. Statute of Limitations
We last considered the statute of limitations applicable to an action upon a foreign judgment in 1891. In Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, 90 Cal. 64, the plaintiff brought an action “to recover upon” a judgment issued by an English court in 1885. (Id. at p. 65.) We rejected the defendant’s argument that the complaint was barred by the two-year statute of limitations for an action upon a contract. Instead, observing that an action on a foreign judgment “is not specifically provided for by any other section of the statute of limitations,” we determined the claim was governed by the catchall limitations period of section 343. (Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, at p. 67.) Section 343 stated then, as it does now: “An action for relief not hereinbefore provided for must be commenced within four years after the cause of action shall have accrued.”
In 1967, more than 75 years after our decision in Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, 90 Cal. 64, the Legislature enacted the provisions of the UFMJRA. The act does not specify a statute of limitations for actions to recognize foreign judgments.
It simply provides that, unless certain specified grounds for nonrecognition apply, “a foreign judgment meeting the requirements of Section 1713.2 is conclusive between the parties to the extent that it grants or denies recovery of a sum of money. The foreign judgment is enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit, except that it may not be enforced pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 1710.10) of this title.” (Former § 1713.3.) The exception refers to the Sister State Money Judgments Act, which provides an expedited procedure for registering and enforcing sister state judgments in California. (§§ 1710-1710.65; Bank of America v. Jennett (1999) 77 Cal.App.4th 104, 114-115.)
As initially enacted in 1967, section 1713.3 stated only that foreign money judgments were enforceable in the same manner as sister state judgments. (Stats. 1967, ch. 503, § 1, p. 1848.) At that time, “ ‘[t]he exclusive way to enforce a sister state money judgment in California [was] to bring an action on the judgment . . . . This traditional manner of enforcing judgments of sister states require[d] all the normal trappings of an original action.’ (11 Cal. Law Revision Com. Rep. (1973), p. 457.)” (Renoir v. Redstar Corp., supra, 123 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1150-1151.) When the Legislature passed the Sister State Money Judgments Act in 1974, it amended section 1713.3 to clarify that judgments secured in foreign countries cannot be enforced using these new expedited procedures. (Stats. 1974, ch. 211, § 5, p. 409.) Rather, foreign money judgments must “be enforced with ‘all the normal trappings of an original action’ that had existed before in connection with the enforcement of sister state judgments. [Citations.]” (Renoir v. Redstar Corp., supra, at p. 1151.)
There is an analytical difference between recognition of a foreign judgment and enforcement of that judgment. A foreign judgment must be recognized before it is enforced, making enforcement, perhaps, the most common reason for filing such an action. Of course, recognition may also be sought so that a party may rely on res judicata or collateral estoppel principles unrelated to enforcement of a money judgment. (See Rest.3d Foreign Relations Law of the U.S., § 481, com. b, p. 595; Renoir v. Redstar Corp., supra, 123 Cal.App.4th at p. 1150.) The parties acknowledge this difference, but they draw different conclusions about its meaning for purposes of section 1713.3.
Manco notes that California’s UFMJRA does not include a statute of limitations but requires only that a foreign judgment be “final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered” to be subject to recognition. (Former § 1713.2, italics added.) This requirement ensures that a foreign judgment will not be recognized in California if it is unenforceable under the statute of limitations, or on any other basis, in the country where it was rendered. Manco argues the absence of a limitations period in the UFMJRA reflects a legislative intent that no California statute of limitations can bar recognition of a foreign judgment.
The Florida Supreme Court adopted this reasoning in interpreting its version of the uniform act. (Nadd v. Le Credit Lyonnais, S.A. (Fla. 2001) 804 So.2d 1226 (Nadd).) The court explained that “the UFMJRA contemplates a twostep process before the judgment can be collected in this state. First, the judgment must be recognized; then the judgment creditor must institute enforcement proceedings.” (Id. at p. 1231.) Because the act does not list expiration of the forum state’s statute of limitations as a ground for nonrecognition of a foreign judgment, the Nadd court concluded no Florida statute of limitations applies to the recognition of foreign judgments under its act. (Id. at p. 1233 [“the only limitation applicable to the recognition of a foreign money judgment is that the judgment be enforceable where rendered; Florida’s statute of limitations does not affect the recognition portion of a UFMJRA action”].) The relevance of Nadd’s holding to our case is questionable because, unlike California, Florida has adopted a bifurcated approach. Expedited procedures permit the recognition of a foreign judgment without the filing of a civil action. (See id. at pp. 1230-1231 [discussing the recognition procedure in Fla. Stat. § 55.604].) However, Florida apparently requires the bringing of a traditional action to secure enforcement. (See Nadd, supra, at p. 1232.) The Florida Supreme Court did apply a statute of limitations to these enforcement actions. Based on a provision requiring enforcement of a recognized foreign judgment in the same manner as a judgment issued in Florida,10 the court concluded an action to enforce a foreign judgment must be filed within Florida’s 20-year limitations period for enforcement of domestic judgments. (Nadd, supra, at pp. 1232-1233.)11
California has not enacted an expedited procedure for the registration of foreign judgments. Rather, a party seeking recognition of a foreign judgment under the UFMJRA must file a civil action. (Renoir v. Redstar Corp., supra, 123 Cal.App.4th at p. 1151.)12 In California, “[c]ivil actions, without exception,” must be commenced within a statutorily prescribed limitations period. (§ 312, italics added.) Because the UFMJRA does not set forth its own limitations period for actions to recognize foreign judgments, we must decide whether the Legislature intended that recognition actions be governed by a specific statute of limitations or fall under the catchall limitations period of section 343.
Once a foreign judgment is recognized, it is enforceable in the same manner as a sister state judgment (former § 1713.3) or domestic judgment (see § 1710.65 [a registered sister state judgment has same force and effect as the judgment of a “in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit . . . .” (Former § 1713.3; but see § 1719, subd. (b) [new UFCMJRA provides that recognized foreign judgment is “[e]nforceable in the same manner and to the same extent as a judgment rendered in this state”].) California court]). An action to enforce a sister state judgment is subject to a 10- year statute of limitations. (§ 337.5, subd. (3).) The period of enforceability of a domestic judgment is also 10 years (§ 683.020), although this period may be extended by renewal of the judgment (see § 683.110 et seq.). In our view, section 1713.3’s provision that a foreign judgment meeting the requirements for recognition “is enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit” conveys a legislative intent that actions to enforce foreign judgments be subject to the same procedural requirements and defenses as actions to enforce judgments from other states. One such requirement is section 337.5’s 10-year statute of limitations. Even Bezdikian concedes that, under the relevant statutes, a judgment creditor has 10 years to enforce a foreign judgment. The question he raises is whether the same 10-year limitations period properly applies to an action seeking to recognize the foreign judgment in the first place. Bezdikian argues the Legislature’s failure to specify a statute of limitations for recognition actions, as opposed to enforcement actions, means these actions must still be subject to the four-year limitations period of section 343, as we concluded long ago in Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, 90 Cal. at page 67.
We disagree. The distinction Bezdikian seeks to draw between a recognition action and an enforcement action is artificial and misleading when applied in the statute of limitations context. Although California does not have expedited procedures for registration of a foreign judgment, the law of this state does not require a judgment creditor to file two successive actions, first for recognition and then for enforcement, in order to recover on a foreign judgment. When an action is brought on a foreign money judgment, enforcement, i.e., recovery of the amount of the judgment, is most frequently the ultimate goal. Actions such as the one before us are commonly called domestication actions because the relief they seek is entry of a California judgment for the amount of the foreign judgment. This “domestication” of the foreign judgment enables the judgment creditor to pursue all the enforcement avenues available for recovering 19 domestic money judgments. (See, e.g., Korea Water, supra, 115 Cal.App.4th at p. 395 [action sought California judgment for money owed on Korean judgment]; see also Dore v. Thornburgh, supra, 90 Cal. at p. 65 [action sought “to recover upon” an English judgment].) Although it might be theoretically possible for a party to bring a recognition action without seeking to enforce the foreign judgment, the parties recognize enforcement is almost always the ultimate goal. Certainly, the present case involves more than a simple claim for recognition. Manco’s complaint seeks recognition of the Qatari judgment for the purpose of enforcing it. Based on the directive of section 1713.3 that foreign judgments be enforced in the same manner as sister state judgments, we conclude the 10-year statute of limitations applicable to actions upon sister state judgments (§ 337.5) also applies to actions upon foreign judgments. This is so regardless of whether the action is styled as a claim for “recognition” or “enforcement” or “domestication.” Under section 1713.2, a judgment creditor may seek recognition of a foreign money judgment as soon as the judgment is final, conclusive, and enforceable under the laws of the country where it was rendered. At that point, a cause of action for recognition accrues, and the judgment creditor must bring any claim for recognition or enforcement of the judgment within 10 years. (§ 337.5, former § 1713.3.)
Considering that the Legislature has given judgment creditors 10 years to enforce domestic and sister state judgments, and has also indicated an intent to apply this 10-year period to the enforcement of foreign judgments (see former § 1713.3), it would make no sense to hold that a shorter limitations period applies to the preliminary proceedings necessary to recognize the judgment. In a typical domestication action, Bezdikian’s view would require the judgment creditor to file an action within four years after judgment was entered in the foreign country even though a domesticated judgment is enforceable for 10 years under sections 1713.3 and 337.5. This approach would be cumbersome, expensive, and potentially a trap 20 for the unwary. Application of section 343’s shorter limitations period would also defeat the Legislature’s intent that foreign money judgments be enforceable in the same manner as sister state judgments (former § 1713.3) in all cases where enforcement of the judgment is the ultimate aim. Subjecting actions to recognize foreign judgments to a shorter limitations period than California allows for actions upon domestic judgments or sister-state judgments would also undermine the reciprocity goal of the UFMJRA. If recognition of a final, conclusive, and enforceable foreign judgment is to be barred by a state’s statute of limitations, we should apply the same limitations period controlling other judgments. “Using the limitations periods that are generally applicable to the forum state’s own judgments best assures reciprocity in the recognition and enforcement of our judgments abroad and gives foreign judgments uniform and fair treatment in [California] courts.” (Nadd, supra, 804 So.2d at p. 1233.)
Amicus curiae Northrop Grumman posits reasons why the Legislature may have wished to place a four-year limit on an action to recognize a foreign judgment even as it allowed a longer time period, i.e., 10 years, for enforcement of the same judgment. The Legislature may have been especially concerned about a judgment debtor’s ability to prove defenses to a foreign judgment, for example, or the Legislature may have been concerned about applying different statutes of limitations to foreign money judgments as opposed to other foreign judgments not covered by the UFMJRA. These asserted concerns are not expressed in the legislative history of the UFMJRA, however, and they are inconsistent with the Legislature’s codification of a 10-year statute of limitations in the new UFCMJRA.
Section 1721, which went into effect January 1, 2008, provides: “An action to recognize a foreign-country judgment shall be commenced within the earlier of the time during which the foreign-country judgment is effective in the foreign country or 10 years from the date that the foreign-country judgment became effective in the foreign country.” Thus, a foreign judgment may be recognized for as long as it is effective in its country of origin up to a maximum of 10 years. The new uniform act establishes a limitations period of 15 years (13 pt. II West’s U. Laws Ann. (2008 supp.) U. Foreign-Country Money Judg. Recognition Act, § 9, p. 18); however, our Legislature reduced this period to 10 years to be consistent with the 10-year period of enforceability for domestic and sister state judgments. (See Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 639 (2007-2008 Reg. Sess.) May 8, 2007, p. 16 [suggesting action to recognize a foreign judgment should have a 10-year statute of limitations “just like all other state judgments”].)
Although legislative history surrounding enactment of the new UFCMJRA is not controlling here, the Legislature’s expressed concern for uniformity supports our conclusion that actions on foreign judgments should be subject to the same 10- year limitations period that applies to all other judgments.
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Outcome: The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings in the trial court.