[Updated March, 2021.]
U.S. Marshals Form 94, the much-feared Hague Service Request. It’s just a form to fill out, not unlike a tax return simpler to complete than a Letter Rogatory.
This is the proper form for Article 5 of the Hague Service Convention, so if that isn’t your treaty, move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
You’ve got three ways to go:
- Tap us on the shoulder for bespoke attention—and probably some amusing commentary to boot (see the upper right if you’re on a desktop, or way down below if you’re on a phone/tablet),
- Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of the right (language-specific) forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
- If you’re feeling froggy & would like to handle the whole thing yourself, keep reading. This lays out the framework you’ll need.
T0 be frank, the document is awfully straightforward, but remember– straightforward does not equal easy.
And to be fair, the USM-94 is not really a creation of the U.S. Marshals. It was designed by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law some fifty years ago—the Marshals just slapped a Government Printing Office number on it back when they were tasked with serving process in federal lawsuits.* The FRCP has since been updated… today, any adult non-party can serve process on a defendant in the United States. This prompts some in the industry to think any adult non-party can sign a USM-94. Nope, not so. The U.S. Marshals can’t sign one either, for what it’s worth.
Honestly, we’re not building rockets here. And I’m probably killing my own business by giving away the recipe to the Secret Sauce. Honestly, though… it’s not really a secret if you have the time to look beyond this article, which merely scratches the surface. This is the basic “how to” manual if you seek to do it yourself. (To be sure, I don’t recommend the DIY method, but I’m awfully biased.)
A big, fat, hairy, ugly, do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 disclaimer: this article does not paint the entire picture of what you need to know in order to fill one of these things out. That’s why Hague Envoy exists. It’s a bit like your attitude toward your clients and LegalZoom: if you DIY and mess it up, I’m Sam Girard.** Just without the badge. And the gun. And the Texas drawl.
First off, make sure you’re using the right one. The garden-variety USM-94 will probably work, but there’s a better way. That version is only bilingual—English-French. If you’re serving in China, the Central Authority might appreciate the respect demonstrated by at least having the form in their language. Click here to get the whole range:
- The regular English-French version co-opted by the Marshals for the USM-94
- A French-English version, in that order. Very handy in France, Belgium, western Switzerland, and Quebec.
And then the tri-lingual versions, in English-French and…
- Chinese (In both simplified and traditional, but use the simplified for the PRC.)
- German (Using the English-French only ist nicht gut.)
- Slovak (Not to be confused with Czechoslovakian, which isn’t a language, and isn’t even a nationality anymore)
- And of course, Spanish (Don’t use the USM-272A—this one’s better because the Hague form isn’t just in Spanish and the 272-A doesn’t even apply to Hague requests.)
Make life easy for yourself and use the MS Word version, rather than the PDF. Typing information is a whole bunch easier in that format.
And now, the form itself…
REQUEST FOR SERVICE ABROAD OF JUDICIAL OR EXTRAJUDICIAL DOCUMENTS (Page 1)
IDENTITY AND ADDRESS OF THE APPLICANT
That’s you, counsel. Indicate who you are and where you want the Certificate returned to you. Wise to include your email address and phone number, too.
No, do not let your process server list himself there. Non-lawyers cannot sign Hague Service Requests, no matter how adamantly they insist they can. If you let them, call your malpractice carrier with a heads-up that you’re apt to get sued. See here for why that is.
ADDRESS OF RECEIVING AUTHORITY
Click here, select the country, and use Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V accordingly.
For Germany, Switzerland, and Canada… there are many.
“…THE ADDRESSEE, I.E., (IDENTITY AND ADDRESS)”
The defendant. If you don’t have an address, stop here, because the treaty doesn’t apply, and you’ll waste a whole lot of time.
(THREE CHECK BOXES)
Pick one. Pick only one.
Most likely, it’s going to be Box (a), which essentially says to the Central Authority, “however you’d do it for a case in one of your courts.”
Box (b) allows you to request a particular method, but keep in mind that the method you want may not comport with the foreign country’s practice, in which case they’ll simply send it back to you. Conversely, selecting Box (b) may increase your odds of success.
Box (c) is, frankly, inapplicable in just about every case, because if your defendant is willing to accept, you’re wiser to have him waive service and just render the whole affair unnecessary.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS
Exactly what it says. List the documents that you’re serving. Example:
- Summary of the Documents To Be Served
- Summons in a Civil Action
- Civil Cover Sheet
- First Amended Complaint
- Exhibits A-QQ
- Corporate Disclosure
- Local Rules
“DONE AT THE .”
DONE AT (the city where you sign the form), THE (date you sign it).
This should correspond with the address you indicated in the “Applicant” box above.
SIGNATURE AND/OR STAMP
Sign that thing, counsel. Wet ink, please—none of this “e-signature” stuff.
CERTIFICATE/ATTESTATION (Page 2)
Leave this page blank altogether. It’s up to the Central Authority to complete and send this one back to you. Technically, this is the reverse face of the request form, and most of the time, the Authority will simply fill out a blank they have sitting on the shelf. The one you send them will probably come back untouched.
WARNING/NOTICE (Page 3)
Pretty straightforward here. For the first box, enter the defendant’s name and address again.
For the second box, enter the name, address, and phone number for the Legal Aid office the defendant can contact for help nearest to the court hearing the case. (Oh, you’re suing Volkswagen or Toshiba? Complete this box anyway. Don’t get cute.)
SUMMARY OF DOCUMENT TO BE SERVED (Page 4)
NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE REQUESTING AUTHORITY
You again. Name & address. Email & phone as well.
PARTICULARS OF THE PARTIES
List all the plaintiffs and all the defendants, but addresses are not necessary. Sure, it says “if appropriate” for the address information, but I’ve never included addresses of the plaintiff(s) and co-defendants in that section– and I don’t recall ever seeing it included– in several years of handling Hague service. It simply hasn’t been an issue that Central Authorities get hung up on.
Essentially, just pull both sides of the “v.” from the caption and you’re solid. (Be sure to properly indicate all, including joined parties.)
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT
A short statement indicating that the documents are to make the defendant(s) aware of a claim against him and demand his response & appearance.
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE PROCEEDINGS
A short and plain statement of the claim in a nutshell, including a dollar figure if it has been specified. Short and plain, short and plain, SHORT AND PLAIN.
DATE AND PLACE FOR ENTERING APPEARANCE
The court’s name and full address, along with the deadline to answer.
COURT WHICH HAS GIVEN JUDGMENT
Usually “n/a” unless you’re serving a summons in an enforcement action or a petition to modify a judgment.
DATE OF JUDGMENT
TIME LIMITS STATED IN THE DOCUMENT
State the deadline again. (You’re leaving no doubt as to when the defendant has to get his answer in.)
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT
Usually “n/a”. The term “extrajudicial” is pretty rare, but this would be an appropriate space for discussion of documents pertaining to an arbitral proceeding. [A subpoena issued by an attorney, rather than the court itself, might be considered extrajudicial, but it’s not appropriately served under the Hague Service Convention. See here.]
TIME LIMITS STATED IN THE DOCUMENT
Again, applicable in arbitration but probably not elsewhere.
(The “Extrajudicial Document” portion may add a fifth page to the document– discard that page if you haven’t entered anything.)
That’s the end of the form. Again, we aren’t building rockets here, and there are a whole bunch of issues that pop up on a case-by-case basis, but this lays out the foundation. If it gets sticky, give a shout.
***** ***** *****
* The FRCP has since been updated… today, any adult non-party can serve process on a defendant in the United States. This prompts some in the industry to think any adult non-party can sign a USM-94. Nope, not so. The U.S. Marshals can’t sign one either, for what it’s worth.
** You must under no circumstances take this article as a definitive and exhaustive guide. Further research and care are critical to successful pursuit of your client’s case—this is merely a primer, offering a starting point for what comes next in your analysis.