July 2009 #2. When Does the Lien of an Exemplified Foreign Judgment Expire in Hawaii.

Authorby David C. Farmer

Hawaii Bar Journal


July 2009 #2.

When Does the Lien of an Exemplified Foreign Judgment Expire in Hawaii

Hawaii State Bar JournalJuly 2009When Does the Lien of an Exemplified Foreign Judgment Expire in Hawaiiby David C. FarmerHawaii practitioners are sometimes asked to register judgments from other states in order to pursue collection of judgment debtor assets that may be located in Hawaii.

An unsettled question remains under Hawaii law: does the new Hawaii judgment lien expire under Hawaii statute or under the statute of the rendering state?

Hawiii's Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (the "UEFJA')(fn1 )was enacted to implement the Full Faith and Credit Clause.(fn2) The purpose of the UEFJA is to facilitate interstate enforcement of judgments and to prevent the forum court from rehearing the original case on the merits.(fn3) A final judgment in one state, if properly rendered, qualifies for recognition throughout the land.(fn4)

In Hawaii, the ten-year shelf life of a judgment lien can be extended another ten years from the date the original judgment was rendered.(fn5)

Is the act of filing of a copy of the foreign judgment with the court clerk under chapter 636C the same thing as a court "rendering judgment?"

'"'Rendition of judgment' has been glossed as the judicial act of court in pronouncing a judgment or an order."(fn6) Rendition is a function of a judge and therefore distinguishable from registration, which is a ministerial act by the clerk under HRS chapter 636C(fn7)

Rendition of judgment or decree as used in HRS § 657-5 contemplates a judicial act of the court. In contrast, the procedure outlined in HRS § 636C-3, under which the judgment creditor simply files an exemplified copy of the foreign judgment with the court derk, involves a purely ministerial act by the court derk.Therefore, the date on which registiaion occurs under chapter 636C is not the same as the date on which judgment is "rendered" under § 657-5.

The UEFJA was intended to "to give the holder of a foreign judgment the same rights and remedies as holders of domestic judgments."(fn8) This purpose is expressed in Hawaii's foreign judgment registration statute, which declares that a foreign judgment registered thereunder "has the same effect and is subject to the same procedures, defenses, and proceedings for reopening, vacating, or staying as a judgment of a court of this State...."(fn9) In Hawaii, the holder of a domestic judgment loses the right to enforce that judgment if he fails to seek an extension within ten years from the date the judgment was rendered. If the holder of a foreign judgment is allowed to seek enforcement more than ten years after judgment is rendered, then the holders of foreign and domestic judgments would not be treated the same, and the purpose of the act would arguably befrustrated.(fn10) Moreover, if it were otherwise, the holder of the new judgment could enforce that new judgment in different states, thereby giving the original judgment a potentially infinite life.

There is a split in case authority as to whether the date of filing of a foreign judgment constitutes a new judgment to which the local dormancy statute will apply.(fn11)

Cases in support of the proposition that a foreign judgment's lien date expires under Hawaii's time limits are arguably distinguishable from Hawaii law because they involve dormancy statutes rather than true statute of limitations.(fn12)

In an Oklahoma reported decision,(fn13 )the statute at issue was a "dormancy" statute that provided that the expiration clock would start on "the date of any judgment that now is or may hereafter be rendered in any court of record in this state" but further provided that a new period would start to run upon "the date of filing of the last execution."(fn14) It would not be unreasonable for an Oklahoma court to consider the filing of a foreign judgment to be an execution that restarts the limitation period under the applicable law(fn15)

In contrast, under Hawaii law, the filing of a judgment by a clerk does not constitute "rendition of a judgment" within the meaning of § 657-5.

The Oklahoma court cited a Utah case(fn16) with approval for its conclusion that the UEFJA should be interp reted in accord with a federal case that interpreted an analogous federal judgment registration statute.(fn17) Infact, there is no consistent federal approach, and the leading 6th Circuit case on which the Utah(fn18) and Oklahoma cases relied(fn19) does not even address the question.

In a widely cited 8th Circuit case,(fn20 )the issue was whether a judgment timely recorded and still effective under the laws of the recording state should be deemed unenforceable because it had expired under the laws of the state where it was issued. Within this context Circuit Judge (later Justice) Blackmun opined that "registraion provides, so far as enforcement is concerned, the equivalent of a...

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