November 25, 2013
by Angela Boyd
Wilson & Associates, P.L.L.C. – USFN Member (Arkansas, Tennessee)
Judgments entered against a defendant in one jurisdiction can be registered in another jurisdiction. These are referred to as foreign judgments and, once registered, have the same force and effect as a judgment rendered in the new jurisdiction. The process for registering foreign judgments is found in the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, which was codified as Arkansas Code Annotated §§ 16-66-601, et seq.
In a recent appellate court decision, Harris v. Temple, 2013 Ark. App. 605 (3rd Div. Oct. 23, 2013), the Arkansas Court of Appeals took a closer look at the time frames for the attachment of foreign judgments to real property in Arkansas. In that case, Harris obtained a judgment against Temple in Louisiana. Two years later, Harris filed a petition with an Arkansas Circuit Court to register the judgment in that jurisdiction. Temple owned property with his wife as tenants by the entirety in that jurisdiction. An order was entered by the circuit court to register the judgment. One month later, Temple filed a motion with the Arkansas circuit court to set aside the judgment. Temple subsequently died, which resulted in title transferring immediately to his wife. A second motion to set aside the judgment was filed with the circuit court by Temple’s son. Neither the original motion filed by Temple, nor the subsequent motion filed by his son, was decided until after Temple’s death, when both motions were ultimately denied.
Temple’s wife filed a declaratory judgment to deem the judgment unenforceable on the basis that the judgment did not attach to the subject property because she became the sole owner at the time of Temple’s death, and the judgment was not final until after Temple’s death when the motions to set aside were denied. On the other hand, Harris argued that the judgment was final as of the date that the judgment was registered and that the pending motion to set aside did not prevent the attachment of the lien. The court agreed with Harris and held that the foreign judgment was final and enforceable as of the date the order was entered to register the judgment. The motion to set aside the judgment did not affect the enforceability of the judgment and did not prevent the lien from attaching to the property. Therefore, the lien attached to the property prior to Temple’s death, and Temple’s wife obtained title subject to the judgment.
The ruling clarifies that, in Arkansas, foreign judgments attach to real property in a jurisdiction at the time the order is entered to register the judgment in that district, regardless of any pending motions to set aside that judgment. Therefore, any registered foreign judgments must be reviewed and analyzed when conducting title searches, especially when determining lien priority in the context of foreclosure or other mortgage servicing activities.
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