Certified Document Translation
and Enforcing Foreign Judgments
in the UK

Legal Translation of Foreign Judgments

We’ve blogged about certified legal translation services in the context of enforcing foreign judgments in India.  Successfully enforcing a foreign judgment in the UK often depends on the country or state of the judgment’s origin and the nature of the judgment itself.

This legal blog post explores both of these issues.

Translation of Judgments under the European Economic Order

Judgments that fall under the jurisdiction of the European Economic Order (EEO) generally can be quickly enforced within the European Union – and thus the UK. However, the EEO is limited to money judgments obtained for uncontested claims. Specifically, in order to enforce a foreign judgment in the UK under the EEO, it must be shown that the debtor:

  • Agreed to the debt
  • The approval has been approved by the originating court
  • Did not defend the claim (i.e., there is a default judgment)
  • Did not defend the claim in court when the claim was tried

Enforcing a judgment under the EEO requires one to first file the application with the originating court and, once the EEO certificate is issued, take it to the UK courts where it is treated as if it had been delivered by a court in the UK. However, it is important to note that the EEO certificate will be issued in the language of the originating country, thus requiring a foreign language translation prior to submittal to the UK court.

The Brussels Regulation

Another available enforcement option is the Brussels Regulation, which applies to all EU countries and aims to provide streamlined procedures for the mutual recognition and enforcement of EU judgments. Typically it is used when the EEO option is not available due to the fact, for example, that the judgment is not a money related judgment. Furthermore, the Brussels Regulation is only applicable to court orders coming from civil or commercial proceedings and not, for example, bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings.

To bring an enforcement measure via the Brussels Regulation, one must file the application in the enforcing state. Thus, the application must be filed in the UK and include the original judgment and all relating documents. If these original documents are not in English, then a certified foreign language translation is required.

The Common Law

Outside these two regulations, along with a few other regional regulations, the enforcement of a foreign judgment must be done via the UK’s common law. Typically, any judgment arising outside of an EU Member State must be enforced via the common law route. Accordingly, the applicant is required to start new legal proceedings in the UK, suing on the judgment as a debt. If the original judgment is in a foreign language, a certified foreign language translation will have to be included in the petition.

In reality, more often than not there are no grounds for the UK court to re-examine the claim on its merits, thus a summary judgment is usually granted. The summary judgment then allows the petitioner to quickly get through the legal proceedings without a lengthy trial and collect their debt. However, that being said, there are instances when a debtor can bring a challenge to the judgment’s enforcement. For example, a common argument against enforcement is that the judgment came from a jurisdiction that the UK does not recognize as having the competence to issue such decisions.

Another common challenge to enforcement is that the judgment does not comply with UK law. For example, UK law requires that a foreign judgment can only be enforced if it is for a definite sum of money. Thus, US judgments for punitive damages are unenforceable in the UK.

Finally, a debtor can also challenge an enforcement petition by claiming that the judgment itself is not final and conclusive by raising issues of fraud or a substantial injustice. However, the debtor is required to prove these grounds, and the burden of proof is rather high.

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