Enforcing Foreign Judgments in South Carolina
If you win compensation in a judgment in a civil case in another state, but the defendant in your case is either located in South Carolina or has assets in South Carolina you can use to satisfy your judgment, you will need to follow certain steps to have the legal ability to enforce your foreign judgment in South Carolina.
The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that a judgment of a court from one state be enforced by all the other states of the U.S. However, states are permitted to establish procedures by which they enforce judgments from other states.
Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act
The enforcement of foreign judgments, or judgments issued by a federal court or state court in another state in the U.S., is governed under South Carolina’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, or UEFA. The process of enforcing a foreign judgment from a state or federal court in another state is known as “domesticating” the judgment.
In order to domesticate a judgment, UEFA requires that an authenticated copy of the foreign judgment be filed with the court clerk in any county in South Carolina in which the judgment debtor either resides or has property located. In addition to a copy of the judgment, the judgment creditor or their attorney must also submit an affidavit stating that the foreign judgment is final, that it is unsatisfied in whole or in part and the amount of the judgment that remains outstanding, and whether the judgment is otherwise being contested.
Notice that the foreign judgment has been filed with the South Carolina courts must be served upon the judgment debtor, who has 30 days to notify the court that they wish to contest enforcement of the judgment.
If the foreign judgment is not being contested, the court clerk will docket it as a judgment of the South Carolina courts. However, if the judgment debtor wishes to contest the judgment, the court may require the parties to submit evidence or may hold a hearing to resolve the contest. A judgment debtor may seek relief from the domestication of a foreign judgment on the grounds that the judgment has been appealed from, or that enforcement of the judgment has been stayed by the issuing court, or any other ground under which the South Carolina courts can refuse to enforce the judgment.
For example, South Carolina courts may decline to enforce a foreign judgment if they find that the issuing court lacked jurisdiction over the case or the judgment debtor, thereby rendering the judgment null and void. The UEFA also allows courts to refuse to enforce a foreign judgment based on a claim contrary to the public policy of South Carolina.
Process of Collecting on a Foreign Judgment
Once you have domesticated your foreign judgment in South Carolina, you can take actions to satisfy the judgment from the judgment debtor, if they are physically located in South Carolina, or to attach assets owned by the judgment debtor that are located in the state. Post-Judgment collections are normally handled through a Supplemental Proceedings hearing, during which the debtor is placed under oath and questioned as to their potential assets. If assets are discovered, the presiding Judge can issue an Order to have them seized and liquidated in order to use the proceeds towards the payment of the judgment. For example, you may seek to satisfy your judgment from bank accounts or brokerage accounts at banks or financial institutions located in South Carolina. Or you can attach physical assets like real estate, vehicles, or goods present in South Carolina. To satisfy a physical judgment against physical assets, the local sheriff or a receiver appointed by the Court will typically have to sell the assets.
If you have questions about how to enforce and collect upon a foreign judgment in South Carolina, contact our attorneys at Crawford & von Keller, LLC, today for a consultation to discuss your legal rights and options and learn more about how our firm can help you.