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Wilson v. Holt Graphic Arts


October 1, 2009


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-8134-06) (Hon. Robert E. Morin, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kramer, Associate Judge

Submitted May 13, 2008

Before KRAMER, FISHER and THOMPSON, Associate Judges.

The trial court entered a writ of fieri facias to enforce a domesticated judgment issued to Holt Graphic Arts ("Holt") against appellant Allen Wilson, an attorney appearing pro se. On appeal, Wilson argues that the trial court abused its discretion in entering the writ of fieri facias because (1) the foreign judgment was issued by a court without proper personal jurisdiction; (2) he was not notified of the California court date and therefore was unable to defend that case; (3) the foreign judgment was barred by res judicata and, contrary to the trial court's finding, that argument was not waived; and (4) the foreign judgment conflicted with another final and conclusive judgment. He also argues that the writ was improperly executed against his primary residence. We affirm.

Holt sued Wilson in the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, three times: twice in the Small Claims Division (Case Nos. 20000095668 and 2001009995) and once in the general court (Case No. 2000098608). The first two cases resulted in judgments against Wilson in the amount of $893.03 (plus $50.75 in court costs) and $993.13 (plus $100 in court costs), respectively. The third case resulted in a judgment against Wilson for $9,201.25, plus pre-judgment interest, court costs, and Holt's attorney's fees,*fn1 for a total of $14,607.67. The focus of this appeal - the third judgment - was domesticated and enforced through a writ of fieri facias, which resulted in the forced sale of Wilson's primary residence.*fn2

First, we reject Wilson's argument that the trial court erroneously determined that the California court had personal jurisdiction over him when it issued the third judgment against him. As the trial court found, a Proof of Service filed with the Alameda County Superior Court certified that Wilson was personally served with both a summons and complaint in that case on December 1, 2000. Second, we reject Wilson's argument that the trial court erroneously held that his res judicata argument was waived. See, e.g., Group Health Ass'n v. Reyes, 672 A.2d 74, 75 (D.C. 1996) (noting that, absent certain exceptions inapplicable in that case, as well as this one, a party that did not "amend, or seek leave to amend, its answer to plead res judicata before trial as an affirmative defense" had waived that argument); CAL. CODE CIV. PROC. 430.80 (a) (2009) ("If the party against whom a complaint or cross-complaint has been filed fails to object to the pleading, either by demurrer or answer, that party is deemed to have waived the objection unless it is an objection that the court has no jurisdiction of the subject of the cause of action alleged in the pleading or an objection that the pleading does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action.") Third, because Wilson's res judicata argument cannot succeed, neither can his argument that judgment should not have been enforced because it "conflicted with another final and conclusive judgment."*fn3

Finally, we reject Wilson's argument that the trial court erred in recognizing the California judgment because he "did not receive notice of [the] proceeding in sufficient time to enable him to defend." Wilson is correct that, although the trial court specifically found that he had been served and therefore had notice of the suit against him (and we agree), the trial court made no finding that Wilson had notice of the California court date that ultimately resulted in the default judgment against him. Moreover, there is no proof of such notice in the record before us on appeal.*fn4 Nonetheless, no remand for inquiry into whether Wilson received notice of the trial date in the underlying suit is required in light of D.C. Code § 15-352 (2001), a provision of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act of 1990. That section provides that "[a] foreign judgment filed with the [Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court] shall have the same effect and be subject to the same procedures, defenses, or proceedings for reopening, vacating, or staying as a judgment of the Superior Court and may be enforced or satisfied in the same manner." Id. Thus, in order to seek relief from the domesticated judgment in this court, Wilson needed to comply with our Super. Ct. Civ. R. 60, which requires such motions to be filed within a year in most cases, including this one.*fn5 See Threatt v. Winston, 907 A.2d 780, 788 (D.C. 2006) ("We have not had much occasion to interpret this statute, but many jurisdictions implement their version of it by holding that the proper way to attack a foreign judgment is by filing in the receiving jurisdiction a motion or independent action under Rule 60 (or the local equivalent)."); Arrowhead Alternator, Inc. v. CIT Commc'ns Fin. Corp., 602 S.E.2d 231, 232 (Ga. 2004) ("The proper method for attacking a foreign judgment filed in Georgia under the Uniform Act is a motion to set aside under [the Georgia statutory equivalent of Rule 60]."); Carr v. Bett, 970 P.2d 1017, 1022 (Mont. 1998) ("[A] Rule 60(b) motion is the appropriate motion to file to seek review of a foreign judgment filed in a Montana district court."); Marworth, Inc. v. McGuire, 810 P.2d 653, 656 (Colo. 1991) (relief from foreign judgments available under COLO. R. CIV. P. 60 (b)); Springfield Credit Union v. Johnson, 599 P.2d 772, 775 (Ariz. 1979) (allowing an independent action in Arizona under Rule 60 to attack a default judgment rendered in Massachusetts). Because Wilson has waited many years to voice his complaint about the judgment,*fn6 he is not entitled to relief under Rule 60, and the judgment shall stand.

The Superior Court's order is therefore Affirmed.*fn7

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