Domestic US lawyers frequently call my law firm asking us to help them enforce their just received US court judgment overseas. They are seeking to turn the US judgment into a judgment of the country where the defendant is located so they can, in turn, collect the money owed under the judgment. Way too often, however, these lawyers are operating under the assumption that all we need do is take the judgment to a foreign court and ask them to enter it as a new, local judgment.

My response on taking US judgments to China is that there is no reason to do so because they have no value there. This is less true for Europe, where if one plays the cards absolutely correctly from the very beginning of the US court action, it is sometimes possible to convert a US judgment into a local one.

My law partner, Nadja Vietz (who is a licensed attorney in Germany, Spain, and the United States — think about that for just a minute!), just came out with a cover story for the Washington State Bar Journal, entitled, Will Your US Judgment Be Enforced Abroad. It is a great article and I highly recommend you read it BEFORE starting a US action against a foreign company.

Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog ( Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.

  • I wrote a very brief paper on enforcing US judgments in China a few years ago, and to the best of my knowledge the conclusions (essentially the same as yours) are still valid. It’s on the Social Science Research Network here:

  • shenlawyer

    The judgement from foreign courts will not be acknowledged,accepted and enforced in China unless the country the courts belong to has already signed an agreement on this issue with China. The only way is that you sue the defendant in Chinese courts.

  • tj

    You CAN enforce a foreign judgment in Japan provided, among other minor service issues, it is not against public policy.

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