Massachusetts Adopts the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act

Massachusetts has taken a significant step towards modernizing its law of judgment recognition by adopting the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. The UEFJA is the uniform law that governs the recognition of sister-state judgments, not foreign country judgments. Until this year, Massachusetts was one of a very few states that still required judgment creditors to bring an action on a judgment in order to enforce the judgment in Massachusetts, even when the judgment was entitled to full faith and credit. Under the new statute, sister-state judgments can simply be registered, and after registration, they are treated just as domestic judgments (with all the usual procedures for seeking to set aside judgments or to stay judgments pending appeal).

The new statute provides that judgments should be registered in the district court with jurisdiction over the judgment debtor’s residence or the place where an organization that is a judgment debtor has a usual place of business. This might seem strange at first, given that district courts generally exercise jurisdiction only over smaller civil matters, with more significant cases heard in the superior courts. But under longstanding Massachusetts law, supplementary process in aid of a judgment is always brought in a district court,1 no matter the size of the judgment, so the statute makes sense.

I love legal history and I always have mixed feelings when Massachusetts modernizes its law. When we adopted the Uniform Probate Code, for example, we lost the wonderful old language of administrators c.t.a. and executors de son tort. When we adopted the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities, we lost the elegance of John Chipman Gray’s formulation: “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest.” And so forth. But we can’t let nostalgia stand in the way of good legislation. I was going to say that we can let nostalgia stand in the way of good legislation when it comes to things that matter less, like baseball. But baseball matters a lot, and the designated hitter rule and inter-league play were not good legislation, not one bit.

  1. Except in certain housing matters.

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