Foreign Finality

Moreno v. Halperin
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-20-00858-CV (December 14, 2021)
Justices Myers and Garcia (Opinion, linked here) [Burns, C.J., recused]
Filing a “foreign” judgment for domestication in Texas under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act “instantly creates a Texas judgment that is enforceable.” The clock therefore immediately begins ticking on a potential appeal (limited though that may be in scope) and any post-judgment motions.

A federal court in Delaware entered judgment against Moreno and in favor of a bankruptcy trustee based on Morenno’s wrongful diversion of funds from the debtor in bankruptcy. The court awarded the trustee several million dollars and imposed a $10 million constructive trust on Moreno’s home in Highland Park, which allegedly had been purchased with the diverted funds. On January 22, 2020, the trustee domesticated that judgment in Dallas County in accordance with the UEFJA by filing it in a state district court. And then the fun began.

Moreno promptly filed a motion to vacate the judgment, arguing the Texas homestead exemption precludes enforcement of the constructive trust on his Highland Park home. Soon thereafter, Moreno’s wife intervened to assert her interest in the Highland Park property, and the trustee then asserted claims against Moreno’s wife and sister for fraudulent transfer and sought judicial foreclosure with respect to the property. The trial court denied Moreno’s motion to vacate on September 10, 2020, and Moreno filed his notice of appeal a few days later.

The Dallas Court of Appeals dismissed Moreno’s appeal for want of jurisdiction, finding his notice of appeal untimely. While his motion to vacate functioned as a motion for new trial, extending the initial deadline to appeal, even that extended deadline expired April 21, 2020—90 days after the foreign judgment was domesticated and became a final Texas judgment. The trial court’s September 10 order denying that motion to vacate did not resurrect Moreno’s right to appeal, because that order was void. The trial court had lost plenary jurisdiction months earlier, 105 days after the creation of the Texas judgment (30 days after Moreno’s motion was denied by operation of law, 75 days after the judgment). But, Moreno argued, the pendency of his sister’s intervention and the trustee’s fraudulent transfer and foreclosure claims surely made the “judgment” non-final, because it did not dispose of all issues and all parties. Alas, no. Those claims and issues pertained only to enforcement of the judgment. They did not alter the finality of the judgment at the time it was domesticated and therefore did not extend Moreno’s time to appeal.
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