Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Milestones: Ohno v. Yasuma, 723 F.3d 984 (9th Cir. 2013)

(In the Milestones section, I will discuss significant previous cases that involved an Asian party in the U.S. courts.)


Plaintiff sought recognition of a Japanese judgment in the U.S. Central District for California. The judgment was against a Japanese church and its leader that, according to plaintiff, took all of her property. The defendant opposed the recognition of judgment, claiming that such recognition would burden the free exercise of religion guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States and repugnant to the public policy of the United States for the same reason.

The court found that recognition of a foreign judgment is not a state action that triggers constitutional scrutiny, because recognition does not involve litigation on the merits and the petitioner seeking recognition is not a state actor. The court also found that the Japanese law applied to produce the judgment was not repugnant to public policy, as the Japanese law was a law of general application and the plaintiff could have instituted the same type of action in California as well.


Recognition of foreign judgments is one of the most significant topics in private international law, as it directly implicates the cooperation among different legal systems. Although the arguments made in this case may seem outlandish in the first blush, it does raise significant and interesting legal questions. As the court noted, this was the first time in which recognition of a foreign money judgment was challenged on constitutional grounds.

The court correctly decided that recognition of judgment is not state action, which means constitutional scrutiny is not available. In addition to following the precedent, the opinion vindicates the central aim of having a system of judgment recognition--that the process would be a speedy, almost-always-administrative one rather than a re-litigation of the underlying judgment.

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