What is notice? When it comes to domesticating foreign judgments in Arizona, “notice” is governed by the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (the “Act”). The Act simply requires that notice of the lodging of a foreign judgment must be sent to the judgment debtor’s last known post office address. A.R.S. § 12-1703(A) and (B). Actual notice is not required. The post-judgment notice requirements are not the same as the due process protections set in statutes when a case is filed.
The Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the issue of sufficiency of notice in Douglas N. Higgins v. Songer, 171 Ariz. 8 (App. 1991). The Judgment Creditor’s attorney mailed the statutory notices to the last known address of the Judgment Debtor. Those mailings were returned “undeliverable as addressed.” The Judgment Creditor’s attorney then performed additional research and mailed a letter to the Judgment Debtor advising him of the sister-state judgment, not the domesticated judgment. The Judgment Debtor received the letter.
The Judgment Debtor filed a motion to dismiss, and the Judgment Creditor then mailed the statutory notice to the correct address. The trial court took the bait, and dismissed the domestication. The appellate court reversed the trial court, and the domestication stood. The appellate court stated:
- The trial judge apparently assumed that the initial notice of filing the foreign judgment was defective because it did not contain the debtor’s actual post office address, and she apparently believed that the attempts at amendment came too late and that she therefore lacked jurisdiction to do anything but dismiss. The debtor’s argument in support of this conclusion is flawed. A notice of filing a foreign judgment is not a pleading. See Rule 7(a), Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, and Romo v. Reyes, 26 Ariz.App. 374, 375, 548 P.2d 1186, 1187 (1976). Nor is a motion to dismiss a claim a responsive pleading within the meaning of Rule 15(a), Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. Graham v. Goodyear Aerospace Corp., 120 Ariz. 272, 273, 585 P.2d 881, 882 (1978). Accordingly, even if the original documents were defective, we can see no reason why the amended notice of filing foreign judgment, amended affidavit, and amended proof of mailing should have been stricken. Given that conclusion, at the very least, the Michigan judgment was properly domesticated as of the time that the amended affidavit and notices were filed. The trial judge had jurisdiction of the matter and was under no compulsion to grant, and indeed should not have granted, the motion to dismiss. We turn to the more basic question whether the initial notice of filing was defective.
The court held the first notice satisfied the statute because the creditor mailed the papers to the residential address it obtained from the Judgment Debtor’s former spouse. The court reasoned as follows:
- The parties have not cited, and we have not found, any case that deals with whether a creditor is required to exercise due diligence in discovering the debtor’s last known post office address or whether a creditor, in the absence of information to the contrary, may presume that mail addressed to a residence will be delivered. In our opinion, given that constitutional considerations require no notice of post-judgment proceedings, we believe that the judgment creditor in this case satisfied the demands of the statute.
The court decided that basic due process was satisfied when notice and an opportunity to defend the action was afforded in the sister state. The domestication of the foreign judgment is a post-judgment proceeding and a prelude to execution on the judgment, for which no personal notice is required. The Court concluded that the constitution requires little in regard to post-judgment notice, and that the legislature did require a judgment creditor to do any more than notify the debtor at their address where they get mail, either a residence or post office box, that the sister-state judgment was being domesticated in Arizona.
For debtors, the lessons from this case are: (1) keep your address up to date if you want to get notices, and (2) when you get notices, they are important; don’t stick your head in the sand. For creditors, improper notice is one of many issues that can arise when domesticating a judgment in Arizona. Be sure to hire an experienced attorney to assist you.
The attorneys at Windtberg & Zdancewicz, PLC provide clients with experienced legal representation in all litigation and bankruptcy matters. We are experienced in creditor’s rights prosecuting and defending garnishments, charging orders, attachment, property execution, trustee’s sales, foreclosures, judgments, judgment collection, domestication of foreign judgments, and creditor’s issues in bankruptcy cases. If you need assistance with your collection matters, please contact us at (480) 584-5660.