Lashgari v. Lashgari, 12293

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation197 Conn. 189,496 A.2d 491
Decision Date13 August 1985
Docket NumberNo. 12293,12293
PartiesKhosoro Malek LASHGARI v. Simin Dokht LASHGARI.

Charles L. Flynn, New Haven, with whom, on the brief, was Howard A. Lawrence, New Haven, for appellant (plaintiff).

James R. Greenfield, Hartford, for appellee (defendant).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

This case essentially involves the question of whether the trial court, Hon. Joseph W. Bogdanski, state trial referee, erred when it determined that the plaintiff husband had not satisfied a judgment debt incurred from a valid and final judgment rendered by a court in this state, and, therefore, was not entitled to postjudgment relief. It is necessary to the disposition of the plaintiff's appeal to develop the underlying facts as found 1 by the trial court.

In 1971, the plaintiff husband and the defendant wife, both Iranian nationals, married in Iran. A marriage contract was involved, and under it the plaintiff husband agreed to pay to the defendant wife a "mahr," an obligation assumed pursuant to an Iranian marriage contract, in the amount of one million, two hundred thousand (1,200,000) rials, valued then at about $18,000 in American money. The plaintiff did not remit this amount to the defendant spouse at that time. Shortly thereafter, they came to the United States. The defendant returned alone to Iran in 1976, and, upon attempting to depart in order to rejoin the plaintiff in this country, she discovered that the plaintiff, under the laws of Iran, had denied her permission to leave that country. The defendant then authorized her father in Iran to enforce the collection of the "mahr." Thereafter, she obtained a student visa and returned to the United States. In the interim, the established government in Iran was toppled and a change in administration occurred; subsequent events there are a matter of historical record. 2

The plaintiff, in 1979, instituted an action in Connecticut for dissolution of the parties' marriage. The defendant counterclaimed seeking damages for the breach of the parties' marriage contract. 3 Meanwhile, as a result of the enforcement proceedings undertaken by the defendant in Iran and in accordance with Iranian procedure, real property owned by the plaintiff in Iran that was allegedly available to satisfy his debt under the "mahr" was made subject to "auction" there. At the trial before D. Dorsey, J., the plaintiff "called the court's attention to the fact that the lien against his property in Iran was subject to forfeiture." The trial court, D. Dorsey, J., rendered judgment on October 16, 1980, dissolving the marriage of the parties, and, notwithstanding the plaintiff's claims that his property in Iran would satisfy his debt under the "mahr," the trial court also rendered judgment awarding the defendant damages in the amount of $15,789.47 on her counterclaim for breach of the marriage contract. From this judgment the plaintiff took no appeal.

Subsequent to a reargument by these parties, the trial court, D. Dorsey, J., on December 22, 1980, modified its earlier judgment involving the defendant's counterclaim as follows: "Judgment modified to the extent that the parties shall cooperate in arranging to sale [sic] of real estate owned by the plaintiff which is subject to defendant's lien in Iran and the net proceeds of such sale, when paid by the plaintiff to the defendant, shall be credited against the balance of any remaining judgment debt of the second count [of the defendant's counterclaim]." (Emphasis added.) The plaintiff also did not appeal from this modification of the earlier judgment.

Contrary to the terms of the modified judgment, the plaintiff did not arrange for a sale of his Iranian property. Instead, as the trial court found, he "arranged for the removal of the lien by paying a sum of money into the Bank of Iran, in effect substituting a bond for the attached property." On October 6, 1981, a governmental certificate was issued in Iran stating that the debt had been "totally discharged" by members of the plaintiff's family and that it was now the defendant's obligation to claim payment. No money was paid in this country by the plaintiff to the defendant on account of the "mahr" debt. The defendant did not seek payment of her claim in Iran. 4 Rather, on January 25, 1982, she moved the trial court in Connecticut for an order to collect on the unsatisfied Connecticut judgment involving the debt on the "mahr." The plaintiff, on March 30, 1982, filed an "application for a rule to show cause" requesting the following alternative relief: "(1) that the defendant be barred from executing on the judgment; (2) that the court find that the indebtedness under the marriage contract had been fully paid; (3) that satisfaction in Iran constitutes satisfaction of the United States cause [of action]; (4) that a declaratory judgment enter to the effect that payment of the marriage debt in Iran is payment of the same debt upon which [the Connecticut] judgment was rendered; (5) that a permanent injunction issue restraining the defendant from executing upon her judgment, and (6) such other relief as in equity may appertain." In response to the plaintiff's thirty-three paragraph application for a rule to show cause, the defendant filed an "Answer" to each of these paragraphs. The defendant contended, inter alia, that the plaintiff's attempt to enjoin enforcement of the judgment debt was "nothing more than a collateral attack on the judgment on ... matters which should have been raised on appeal or which could have been raised at the time of trial."

The trial court, Hon. Joseph W. Bogdanski, state trial referee, denied the relief sought by the plaintiff's application for a rule to show cause. In its memorandum of decision, the court reasoned that it was the plaintiff who had first applied to the Connecticut court for a dissolution of the parties' marriage and, having invoked Connecticut's jurisdiction over the parties and the marriage, he "was presumed to know that the wife had the right to file an answer to his complaint, and, by way of [counterclaim], seek relief for herself." Moreover, as the trial court further noted, the plaintiff "had every opportunity" to defend against the defendant's counterclaim in the dissolution action and the plaintiff did not appeal the judgment rendered in that action. The trial court also found that "the plaintiff, instead of taking advantage of the modification [of December 22, 1980] which called for a cooperative sale of the land in Iran to permit payment to the defendant, frustrated that sale. The plaintiff now knows that the defendant cannot return to Iran, and that she cannot take the money out of Iran and bring it to the United States. She has, however, formally offered to release all her claims to the money which could then be returned to the plaintiff's family who put up the funds." Finally, the trial court expressly rejected the plaintiff's claim that the trial court "should accept the actions of the notarial office in Iran as satisfaction of the judgment of the Connecticut court." Treating the plaintiff's argument as one involving comity, the trial court took judicial notice "of the relations now existing between the two countries" and ruled that the "granting of comity to an Iranian rule at this time would not be in the best interests of the United States."

In his appeal from the trial court's decision denying his application for relief from enforcement of the Connecticut judgment against him, the plaintiff raises a cluster of claims that all primarily involve the question of whether the plaintiff, through the purported actions taken on his behalf in Iran to make "available" there funds for the defendant, has satisfied that Connecticut judgment. 5 On appeal, the defendant counters that "most of the issues raised by the plaintiff-appellant in his briefs are questions which were or might have been presented and determined by the court in the original trial" and the plaintiff is therefore barred from raising them in this subsequent action. The defendant further argues that, even if the plaintiff were not barred by the final judgment from raising the issues he pursues, the claims are without merit. We find no error.

As a preliminary matter, we address first the scope of our review of this appeal. It is true that we generally review a case on the theory upon which it was tried and decided in the trial court. See, e.g., Fuessenich v. DiNardo, 195 Conn. 144, 151, 487 A.2d 514 (1985); Maltbie, Conn.App.Proc. § 42. It is equally true that we need not address other issues raised on appeal if the trial court has correctly decided an issue that is sufficient to sustain the judgment. See Guglielmo v. Klausner Supply Co., 158 Conn. 308, 314, 259 A.2d 608 (1969); Gryskiewicz v. Morgan, 147 Conn. 260, 159 A.2d 163 (1960); Silverman v. Swift & Co., 141 Conn. 450, 107 A.2d 277 (1954); Maltbie, supra, § 340 and cases cited therein; see also Commissioner of Finance & Control v. Whitfield, 35 Conn.Sup. 622, 624, 403 A.2d 709 (1978). In the present case, the trial court's determination that the plaintiff did not satisfy the terms of the modified judgment rendered by D. Dorsey, J., was not in error and this holding is determinative of the plaintiff's appeal.

The construction of a judgment is a question of law for the court. See 49 C.J.S., Judgments § 436; see also Grasso v. Frattolillo, 111 Conn. 209, 212, 149 A. 838 (1930); see generally Jordan, Marsh & Co. v. Patterson, 67 Conn. 473, 479, 35 A. 521 (1896). As a general rule, judgments are to be construed in the same fashion as other written instruments. Scoville v. Scoville, 179 Conn. 277, 282, 426 A.2d 271 (1979) (Healey, J., dissenting); Grasso v. Frattolillo, supra, 111 Conn. at 212, 149 A. 838; 46 Am.Jur.2d, Judgments § 73; 49 C.J.S.,...

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