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Fidelity National Financial, Inc. v. Friedman

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 22, 2019

Fidelity National Financial, Inc., a Delaware corporation; Fidelity Express Network, Inc., a California corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Colin H. Friedman, individually and as trustee of Friedman Family trust UDT Dated 7/23/87; Hedy Kramer Friedman, individually and as trustee of Friedman Family trust UDT Dated 7/23/87; Farid Meshkatai, an individual; Anita Kramer Meshkatai, individually and as trustee of Anita Kramer Living Trust Dated 7/23/87, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted October 12, 2018 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona No. CV 15-2288 DJH Diane J. Humetewa, District Judge, Presiding

          Thomas H. Case (argued) and Michael G. King, Hennelly & Grossfeld LLP, Marina del Rey, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          David M. Bass (argued), David M. Bass & Associates Inc., Los Angeles, California; Dominica J. Minore, The Law Offices of Dominica J. Minore P.C., Scottsdale Arizona; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges, and Robert N. Chatigny, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Registration of Judgments

         The panel reversed the district court's order vacating a registered judgment and remanded.

         Plaintiffs obtained a civil fraud judgment in California federal court and registered this California judgment in the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963. Plaintiffs later attempted to renew the Arizona judgment, but the district court ruled that the renewal or re-registration was void as untimely. Plaintiffs next registered the California judgment in Washington federal court and then registered the newly-obtained Washington judgment in the District of Arizona. The district court granted defendants' motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) to vacate the newly-registered second Arizona judgment as void. In a prior appeal, the court of appeals reversed, holding that registering the California judgment in Washington created a "new" Washington judgment that could be re-registered in another state under § 1963. On remand, the district court again granted relief under Rule 60(b) on the ground that the Washington judgment was void because the Western District of Washington lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants at the time of registration.

         The panel reversed, holding that a court need not have personal jurisdiction over a judgment debtor in order to "merely register" a previously obtained judgment pursuant to § 1963. The panel held that § 1963 itself does not require that the court have personal jurisdiction. Further, the Due Process Clause does not require that a court in which a judgment creditor registers a pre-existing federal judgment have personal jurisdiction over judgment debtors at the time of registration. The panel held that once a federal court of competent jurisdiction has determined the parties' substantive rights and entered a judgment following a proceeding that comports with due process, that federal judgment should be enforceable in any other federal district by way of the federal judgment registration statute.

          OPINION

          TASHIMA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         In order to facilitate the enforcement of federal judgments, 28 U.S.C. § 1963 provides that a judgment entered in a federal court may be registered in any other federal district by "filing a certified copy of the judgment" in that district. In this case we address, as a matter of first impression in our Circuit, whether personal jurisdiction over the judgment debtors in the district of registration is required for such registration of a judgment. We hold that it is not, because neither § 1963 nor due process imposes such a personal jurisdiction requirement. We therefore reverse the order and judgment of the district court, and remand.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2002, Plaintiffs-Appellants Fidelity National Financial, Inc., and Fidelity Express Network, Inc. (collectively, "Fidelity"), obtained a multimillion dollar civil fraud judgment (the "California Judgment") against Defendants-Appellees the Friedmans and Meshkatais (collectively, "Defendants") in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. This judgment became final ...


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