I say all the time that we ain’t building rockets here. But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky vessel means the cargo may not make it to its destination. Serving process in Switzerland is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.
- The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
- The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
- And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena in Switzerland. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Now, for the chase scene.
Here’s how it’s done in Switzerland:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents. Switzerland’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request. Select the proper language, though, based on the Canton in which the defendant is located.
- Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney. If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
- Send to the appropriate Central Authority. This is also based on the Canton in which the defendant is located; the Swiss have decentralized their Central Authority function.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely 3 months from submission to return of proof.
Article 10 alternative methods
- Aren’t available. Switzerland objects to them all. Article 5 is the only way.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Switzerland. The method is straightforward and simple. Two tricks, though: identifying the correct Central Authority, and identifying the proper language for translation. Neither is too tough with Wikipedia and Google Maps at your fingertips.
Switzerland’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
Bonus practice tip… if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client. The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.