Since there is no treaty between the US and England, enforcement of judgments are at common law. English courts will treat a foreign judgment as a debt between parties rather than requiring the matter to be re-litigated on the merits. The English court will consider the following:
- The judgment is final and conclusive on the merits. This does not mean that the appeal process must be exhausted. But, there must be no stay of enforcement.
- The claim is for a specific, definite amount of money. The judgment cannot however be from a claim for tax, fine or revenue. Also, punitive damages will not be recognized and could detrimentally effect the ability to even collect the compensatory damages awarded.
- The foreign court had jurisdiction according to English rules. For individuals, that means at the time the proceedings commenced, the defendant was present in the country or submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. For a company, it will be regarded as present in a foreign jurisdiction if it has established and managed a fixed place of business in the foreign county and for more than a minimal period of time, carried on business there or a representative of that company has been carrying on business in that country for more than a minimal period of time. Moreover, a defendant will be deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court by a) commencing proceedings as a claimant in that foreign court, b) participating in the foreign court proceedings, or c) having a contractual agreement to submit disputes to the foreign court.
There are certain circumstances where a foreign judgment will not be enforced by English courts. One such circumstance is that the judgment was obtained by fraud. In other words, fraud must be operative in obtaining the foreign judgment. See Gelley v. Shepard (2013) EWCA Civ 1172. Another circumstance is that the judgment is against public policy. Public policy is difficult to define. It refers to concepts of morality such as bribery or influence-peddling. A third circumstance is that the judgment was contrary to natural justice.
Despite the lack of reciprocal arrangements between the US and England, it is possible to enforce a US judgment in the English courts. The procedure to do so is quick and cost-effective. And, the reason to do so is primarily to recover assets to satisfy the judgment.