This article focuses on legal judgments obtained in the US for which enforcement is sought in Mexico. Although the situation is specific there may be similarities with other countries in the region or anywhere else in the world.
I have got the question a couple of times over the last few weeks. Are judgments obtained in the US enforceable in Mexico?
Well, not directly. But yes, if confirmed by a Mexican court, in principle US legal judgments can be enforced and executed in Mexico.
Mexican law provides for Mexican courts to recognize and enforce US judgments in Mexico (based on the North American Free Trade Agreement). However, there is no treaty in place between the US and Mexico as to establish the legal situation of judgments between the two countries. This means that the claimant in that respect fully depends on Mexican law. Mexican courts can recognize US judgments but, legally spoken, they are not obliged to do so.
In order to enforce a US judgment in Mexico the applicable court in the US will have to issue a rogatory letter to the applicable court in the Mexican state (or the Federal District, as applicable) in which debtor resides. The letter must rule out appeal. Also, the debtor must have been personally served with the summon and complaint according to US law. Then the domestication proceedings start, in which the file will need to be translated to Spanish, and then the case is officially filed with the Mexican court. Provided that the Mexican court indeed recognizes the US judgment, all possibilities of enforcements as would otherwise apply to a full Mexican case will apply.
Subsequently, the success of, and decision to proceed to, enforcement and execution of the judgment in Mexico depends heavily on the circumstances: the size of the claim, does debtor have income or assets and will he or she be able to pay; and the location and background of the debtor (which may determine the willingness or not of a bailiff to execute the judgment).
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