Case of the Day: St. Philip Catholic Church v. Kubicek

The case of the day is St. Philip Catholic Church v. Kubicek (Cal. Ct. App. 2014). Josef Kubicek borrowed 19 million Czech crowns from three parishioners of St. Philip’s church in 1992, promising to repay them by 1995. When he defaulted, the Church, which had guaranteed the loans, repaid the parishioners and then sued Kubicek in the Czech Republic. The Church was not able to effect service of process on Kubicek. Under Czech law, a legal guardian was therefore appointed to represent Kubicek’s interests, but for some reason she failed to appear in court, and the court proceeded to hear the case in her absence. The court entered a judgment in favor of the Church.

Kubicek died in 2009. A probate proceeding regarding his estate was filed in Los Angeles. The Church filed a claim against the estate to recover the judgment debt, but the estate rejected the claim as untimely. The Church then sued in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The court granted summary judgment for the estate, and on appeal the court affirmed. It held that under California’s judgment recognition statute, the judgment could not be recognized if the Czech court had lacked personal jurisdiction, if Kubicek had had no notice of the action, or if there had been a lack of due process. All three of these tests were met. The notice point was obvious. The due process point rested on the fact that the legal guardian appointed by the court to represent Kubicek’s interests was herself a court employee, contrary to Czech law, and that the guardian failed even to show up in court. The court lacked personal jurisdiction because the only effort made at service was a letter addressed to an address in the Czech Republic where Kubicek did not reside.

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