Kingdom of Sweden Tries to Enforce Swedish Default Judgment in New York
In prior legal translation blog posts, we discussed the importance of certified document translation services in litigation. A recent case before New York’s Supreme Court in King’s County shows just how crucial it is to obtain affidavits of translation that comply with the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which an action will be brought.
Kingdom of Sweden o/b/o the Swedish Board of Student Finance (CSN) v. Milena Daniella Koste Pashkovski, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 23202 (Sup. Ct., Kings County July 10, 2023) involves an attempt by the Kingdom of Sweden to collect on allegedly outstanding student loans in New York State. In the late 1990s, Defendant Pashkovski was a student the University of Örebro in Sweden. During her studies, she took out loans in the amount of 282,260 Swedish Crowns from the Swedish Board of Student Finance. In 2023, that loan amount would equal roughly $26,000.
Pashkovski claimed that she had been paying off the loans through 2007 and then heard nothing about them until 2022 when she received notice of a New York action filed to enforce a Swedish default judgment entered against her in July 2022. The action in New York was filed by the Kingdom of Sweden on behalf of the creditor, the Swedish Board of Student Finance. The action to domesticate the Swedish judgment was filed by summons and notice of motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint pursuant to New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) § 3213. Pashkovski, who represented herself, cross-moved to dismiss with prejudice and for summary judgment.
The Parties’ Arguments
In support of its motion for summary judgment, Sweden argued that it had personal jurisdiction over Pashkovski because she was aware of the Swedish court proceeding that led to the default judgment since she signed an admission of service of process. In addition, Sweden argued that pursuant to CPLR § 5304(c), the burden was on Pashkovski to establish defenses as to why the Swedish default judgment should not be enforced in New York.
In her defense, Pashkovski argued that the entire process was unfair. Pashkovski maintained that her last dealings with the Swedish Board of Student Finance concerning the loans were in 2007 and that 14 years had elapsed since those contacts and the start of legal proceedings against her. She argued that she was living in the United States when she signed the document attempting to notify her of the Swedish proceeding. By that time her Swedish had become very poor as she had last been in Sweden in the late 1990s and she had only lived in Sweden for a few years to attend school. Pashkovski claimed she was not made aware of the Swedish proceeding until she received the notice of the New York action. Also, Pashkovski noted there were inconsistencies in the English translation of the Swedish default judgment.
Affidavits of Translation Were Defective
With respect to enforcing the judgment in New York, the Court reasoned that the Swedish judgment should be enforced if the Swedish court’s exercise of jurisdiction comports with New York’s concept of personal jurisdiction; if there was due process of law in the Swedish proceeding and if enforcement of the Swedish judgment is “not otherwise repugnant to our notion of fairness.” In making its decision, the Court reasoned that “one would need to be assured of the accuracy of the Swedish documents submitted to this Court,” i.e., the notice and the default judgment.
The Court sided with Pashkovski. It held that the Swedish court did not have personal jurisdiction over her and that she did not receive sufficient notice of the Swedish action to allow her to put forth a defense. Additionally, it found that the Swedish judgment was “repugnant to New York State policy and the judgment did not comport with New York’s notions of due process.”
The Court held that the affidavits of translation included with the documents did not comport with CPLR § 2101(b) which reads:
(b) Language. Each paper served or filed shall be in the English language which, where practicable, shall be of ordinary usage. Where an affidavit or exhibit annexed to a paper served or filed is in a foreign language, it shall be accompanied by an English translation and an affidavit by the translator stating his qualifications and that the translation is accurate.
Therefore, the Swedish documents translated to English could not be relied upon.
More specifically, the Swedish to English translator did not provide his qualifications in the affidavits. He simply stated he was “familiar with the English and Swedish languages.” The translator also did not appear before a notary, therefore his statement was only a self-sworn certification and not a Translator’s Affidavit. As a result, the affidavits of translation were defective in content (not form) and inadmissible.
Kingdom of Sweden Had No Standing
In its ruling, the Court also discussed the issue of standing. It held that Sweden did not have standing to bring the action against Pashkovski as it was not the real party in interest. The real party in interest was the judgment creditor. The Swedish judgment was neither issued to the Kingdom of Sweden nor did the Kingdom appear on any of the documents.
Without a properly attested English translation of the notice document and the Swedish default judgment, the New York court held it would not enforce the Swedish judgment and dismissed the action.
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