I say all the time that we ain’t building rockets here. But we are communicating. And if your phone doesn’t work correctly, you have problems. The sturdiest cellphone I ever owned was a decade ago– in the pre-smartphone days. It was a Nokia 6610 candy bar– manufactured in China, I’m sure, but designed in Finland. You could throw the thing off a five-story building onto solid concrete, walk downstairs, and call your mom. The thing was a beast. Had Nokia kept up with the smartphone revolution, I’d still be using their stuff today.*
Serving process in Finland is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention. This holds true 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 abroad. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Here’s how it’s done in Finland:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents… maybe. Finland’s declaration to Article 5(3) does not require translation of service documents, but that doesn’t make things easy. They also allow individual recipients to reject untranslated service, which can really throw a Mjölnir-sized monkey wrench into the works. Companies that do business outside Finland, however, are deemed competent in English.
- 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, in Finland’s case the Ministry of Justice.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely two or three months from submission to return of proof.
Article 10 alternative methods
- Mail service is available, depending on where you are, but it’s a bad idea anyway. If you do select this route, pay particular attention to the venue court’s rules about how mail service is initiated—in federal cases, adhere strictly to FRCP 4(f)(2)(C)(ii).
- Finland also allows direct access to “judicial officers or other competent persons” under Article 10(b), but they make no definitive statement in their declarations about who those people are. Moreover, no authority is Finland is obliged to assist foreign litigants, so it may be a nonstarter. And in any event, the Finnish Central Authority is pretty quick.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Finland. Its declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
And remember… if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client, because the plaintiff may not have done it correctly. That actually happened once, with a defendant in Norway, and her lawyers were smart enough to fight the issue. The Washington Court of Appeals erroneously thought going outside the Central Authority was okay, but their Supreme Court saw the matter differently.
* Worth noting is that Microsoft acquired Nokia a couple of years ago and the company still exists as MS’ Finnish subsidiary. When you’re suing them, you still have to serve properly, and serving the U.S. parent company will be just as ineffective as serving a U.S. sub of a foreign parent.
And lest I be remiss, I have to link the silliest reference to Finland in the known universe: Monty Python’s homage to the wintry land.