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Israeli judgment can be enforced in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a lower court judge’s decision to enforce a judgment that a law firm obtained in Israel for unpaid fees owed by a client.

The plaintiff law firm sought recognition of the Israeli judgment under the Massachusetts Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (G.L.c. 235, §23A).

The defendant client argued that the recognition act, which requires that a defendant receive notice of the foreign court proceedings “in sufficient time to enable him [or her] to defend,” incorporates Rule 4(d) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and that because the plaintiff failed to comply with that rule, the Israeli judgment could not be recognized.

The SJC disagreed, finding that the statute requires notice that satisfies the requirements of due process.

“The defendant received adequate notice,” Justice David A. Lowy wrote for the court.

“The defendant’s evasion, combined with the other indicia of notice, … satisfied the recognition act,” Lowy wrote.

The SJC noted that the recognition act forbids the recognition of a foreign money-judgment if “the cause of action on which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of this state.” The defendant contended that recognition — which would lead to her being personally liable for the legal fees — would violate the commonwealth’s public policy of respecting the corporate form.

“The Israeli judgment is not repugnant,” the SJC concluded.

“The defendant should have argued in Israel against holding her personally liable, not in Massachusetts,” Lowy wrote.

The 10-page decision is Cassouto-Noff & Co. v. Diamond.

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