It certainly wasn’t a slow weekend in global politics. New Zealand’s exceedingly popular Prime Minister announced his retirement, Austria’s voters barely shunned a return to power by the hard right, and Italians rebuffed an arguably critical spate of constitutional reforms, prompting the resignation of their own popular PM. So, what to make of these stories here in America? Like many things, that depends on your perspective. Much as I opined after the Brexit vote in June, not much will change in terms of how U.S. litigants must interact with foreign parties.
Frankly, precious little is going to change in Auckland—Prime Minister Key says he’s leaving at the top of his game. When a PM retires, his party usually remains in power, so the agenda doesn’t change dramatically. Look for New Zealand to continue arguing about sheep and rugby and whether to remove the Union Jack from their national flag, all while continuing to fortify their defenses against Saruman and his Orc army.
I kid, of course. New Zealand is high on my bucket list of places to visit, because the place is objectively stunning (so the perfect location to portray Middle Earth). They have a host of challenges before them, just like the rest of us: wealth inequality, racial tension, affordable housing, the occasional earthquake. But in terms of relations with the U.S., status quo continuum (or however that should be conjugated).
And I don’t foresee any changes in serving process or compelling evidence down there. It’s a common law system that, despite its absence from the Hague Service & Evidence Conventions, is not much more complicated than those in other common law countries.
Like the U.S., New Zealand is a member of the Hague Apostille, Child Abduction, and Adoption (1993) Conventions. Especially the Apostille Convention makes life a little bit easier for litigants (and litigators).
Score one for the good guys on Sunday. ‘Nuff said on that issue.
Truly, no more is going to change due to Austria’s electoral results than to New Zealand’s change in leadership. That is, not much from a U.S. litigation perspective. More pertinent to forthcoming changes is Austria’s expected accession to the Hague Service Convention, which has been approved by the Council of Europe (Herr Van der Bellen, we’re waiting patiently).
Austria is already a party to the Apostille, Adoption (1993), and Child Support (2007) Conventions, but its absence from the Service Convention means that a litigant’s only option to serve an Austrian defendant is an old-fashioned Letter Rogatory. Expensive and time-consuming, that device. And if it’s not worded correctly, highly problematic. [Watch this space for updates as the HSC enters into force for Austria. We’ll be on top of it.]
Personally, I think the Italians get a bad rap. The trains run pretty efficiently (a lonely bright spot in the horrible legacy of Benito Mussolini), the wine is both good and cheap, and that Pavarotti fellow is still yyyuuuuge there. I really do love traveling in Italy—and I’ve returned to Rome several times, having never tossed any lira/euros into that fountain. This is notwithstanding the fact that I’d do pretty much anything Anita Ekberg asked me to (still, that scene is completely implausible—even at 3am, there are hordes of tourists crowded around).
On Sunday, a massive slate of constitutional changes was rejected by the Italian electorate, whose turnout numbers ought to shame every American. So status quo continuum (please, somebody conjugate that correctly?). The very popular (and young) Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pinned his political future to this ballot, and resigned as promised. The amendments were criticized as, ostensibly, a huge power grab by the PM, but “fake news” arguably had a huge influence on the vote (well played, Mr. Putin… well played). The bottom line, 63 governments in 70 years was not sufficiently frustrating to warrant the changes advocated by Renzi.
Still, for U.S. litigants, Italy is actually quite smooth to navigate, and looks to remain so. Like us, Italy does not object to alternative methods of service in the HSC, and is party to the Apostille, Evidence, Child Abduction, Adoption (1993) and Child Support (2007) agreements. That’s all six Hague Conventions that the U.S. has ratified (soon to be seven, if you include Securities!). A relatively good place for U.S. litigants, if you can believe it.
And my wife loves the place, so we’re going back.