Enforcing CHINA Court Judgments Overseas

When it comes to enforcing US court judgments in China, the law has been clear and remains clear. China won’t do it. Not now. Not later. Probably not ever. For more on this, check out the following.

Case closed.

But what about taking a Chinese court judgment and getting that enforced outside of China? The answer on whether that can be done is maybe.

I thought of this the other day when I read an article [link no longer exists] on how a Singapore court had enforced a China judgment. Singapore does not have an agreement with China to enforce Chinese court judgments, but, presumably, the courts there can choose to do so on a case by case basis.

In this instance, the Singapore court heard testimony from both sides on the merits of the case and then enforced the judgment. In other words, it did not semi-automatically enforce the judgment simply through registration; it instead made its own (presumably expedited) factual determination that the China judgment was worth enforcing.

I mention this Singapore case as a segue to writing about a case my firm handled a few years ago and to at least somewhat refute the prevailing view  that “US courts will never enforce a Chinese judgment.” United States courts — with or without a treaty — may enforce foreign judgments, including Chinese judgments.

Generally, if someone has a legitimate foreign court judgment based on the merits (as opposed to the judgment having been granted because a party failed to show up), the holder of the foreign judgment may bring an action in a U.S. court seeking to have that foreign judgment given effect in the United States. Almost all U.S. states look to the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act to determine how to treat a foreign judgment. Just by way of a quick and dirty example, here is Washington State’s statute incorporating the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act. There are a whole slew of possible reasons for a U.S. Court to reject the enforcement of a foreign judgment, but usually they will be enforced.

But for some reason, there is the view that US courts will not enforce China court judgments because China does not enforce US judgments and because China courts are not well respected. I half disagree and I have a case to support the disagreement part.

A few years ago, my law firm’s international dispute resolution lawyers represented a U.S. company that had a Chinese court judgment against a Chinese company. This U.S. company wanted us to domesticate its Chinese judgment (convert it to an American judgment) so it could seize the U.S. assets of the Chinese company. The U.S. company had not been successful in seizing assets of the Chinese company in China and it figured that it should try  in the United States. We were successful in convincing a California State Court judge to enforce the Chinese judgment.

Here’s the half part though. Our California case was against a Chinese company and I have to believe that had it been a Chinese company seeking to enforce a Chinese judgment against an American company, the American company would have been well positioned to argue about the unfairness of Chinese courts.

Not saying that one Singapore case and one California case a make a trend, but I am saying that it is wrong to just assume that Chinese judgments have no value in countries without judgment enforcement agreements with China. Rather, it would seem that enforcement of China judgments is on a case by case basis.

Anyone have their own China judgment enforcement story?