On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, HUD-L- 3395-98.
Before Judges Pressler, Kestin and Alley.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alley, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Defendant appeals from an order of the Law Division which enforced a civil money judgment rendered by an Israeli court by entering judgment in favor of plaintiffs for $218,039.73, plus interest, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:49A-16 to -24, the Foreign Country Money-Judgments Recognition Act (Act), adopted in New Jersey in 1997. We affirm.
The underlying basis of the dispute involved sales by plaintiff to defendant of military and technical equipment, for which defendant allegedly did not pay. Plaintiff Kam-Tech Systems Limited is a company registered under the laws of Israel, and plaintiff Duration Systems Limited is a subsidiary of Kam- Tech. On July 10, 1995, the Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv, Israel, by Judge David Geldstein, awarded plaintiffs a monetary judgment against defendant. On April 22, 1998, plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendant in the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking a judgment under the Act enforcing the Israeli court's money judgment. On plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, defendant interposed several provisions of the Act in arguing against enforcement of the Israeli judgment.
Judge Joseph T. Ryan found as a matter of law that plaintiffs had established their right to prevail with the exception of two issues, namely, whether defendant had received sufficient notice of the Israeli judicial proceeding, and whether he had voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the court in Israel. With respect to those issues the court decided that an evidentiary hearing should be held. Accordingly, the summary judgment motion was denied without prejudice and a plenary hearing was held on September 30, 1999, in which evidence was received on the specified issues. In a brief written opinion and an order entering a final judgment dated January 5, 2000, Judge Ryan rejected defendant's contentions and enforced the Israeli judgment in favor of plaintiffs by entering judgment pursuant to the Act for $218,039.73, plus interest from February 24, 1998.
The Act supplies a useful remedy for recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments. When New Jersey and the other twelve former British colonies originally subscribed to the United States Constitution, they did so as sovereign states accepting the unifying force of the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit clause.*fn1 The Constitution, however, made no specific provision for recognizing or enforcing judgments entered by the courts of other nations. As a result, and in the absence of an implementing treaty or statute, the subject was deemed a matter of "comity," as explained in the leading case of Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 164, 16 S.Ct. 139, 143, 40 L. Ed. 95, 108 (1895). The Supreme Court in Hilton set forth principles governing the enforcement of foreign judgments in the United States:
The most certain guide, no doubt, for the decision of such questions is a treaty or a statute of this country. But when, as is the case here, there is no written law upon the subject, the duty still rests upon the judicial tribunals of ascertaining and declaring what the law is, whenever it becomes necessary to do so, in order to determine the rights of parties to suits regularly brought before them ....
No law has any effect, of its own force, beyond the limits of the sovereignty from which its authority is derived. The extent to which the law of one nation, as put in force within its territory, whether by executive order, by legislative act, or by judicial decree, shall be allowed to operate within the dominion of another nation, depends upon what our greatest jurists have been content to call 'the comity of nations.' Although the phrase has been often criticized, no satisfactory substitute has been suggested.
'Comity,' in the legal sense, is neither a matter of absolute obligation, on the one hand, nor of mere courtesy and good will, upon the other. But it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens, or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws. [Hilton, supra, 159 U.S. at 163-64, 16 S.Ct. at 143, 40 L. Ed. at 108]
The Supreme Court concluded
[W]e are satisfied that where there has been opportunity for a full and fair trial abroad before a court of competent jurisdiction, conducting the trial upon regular proceed- ings, after due citation or voluntary appearance of the defendant, and under a system of jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice between the citizens of its own country and those of other countries, and there is nothing to show either prejudice in the court, or in the system of laws under which it was sitting, or fraud in procuring the judgment, or any other special reason why the comity of this nation should not allow it full effect, the merits of the case should not, in an action brought in this country upon the judgment, be tried afresh, as on a new trial or an appeal, upon the mere assertion of the party that the judgment was erroneous in law or in fact. [Id. at 202-03, 16 S.Ct. at 158, 40 L. Ed. at 112] See also, Mercandino v. DeVoe & Reynolds, Inc., 181 N.J. Super. 105, 107 (App. Div. 1981).
The Act supplies a statutory basis for enforcing foreign judgments, a basis that was missing in Hilton, and represents an important progressive step in the recognition and enforcement in this country of money judgments of the courts of other nations.*fn2
Its text, with minor variations, is that of the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. See 13 U.L.A. 261 (1986). The original 1962 Prefatory Note to the uniform draft includes the following reasons for proposing this legislation:
In most states of the Union, the law on recognition of judgments from foreign countries is not codified. In a large number of civil law countries, grant of conclusive effect to money-judgments from foreign courts is made dependent upon reciprocity. Judgments rendered in the United States have in many instances been refused recognition abroad either because the foreign court was not satisfied that local judgments would be recognized in the American jurisdiction involved or because no certification of existence of reciprocity could be obtained from the foreign government in countries where existence of reciprocity must be certified to the courts by the government. Codification by a ...