[Author’s note: this series distills the Convention as it applies to practitioners in the United States—it is not a definitive analysis of the treaty in a broader sense. Call it a primer, if you will. Parts One and Two focus on the treaty’s main operative articles, Part Three provides background, and Part Four, which follows here, delves into articles that, while important, have a bit less practical application to everyday practice.]
Article 13 sets out the only two bases for a Central Authority’s refusal to execute a request for service: a violation of its sovereignty, and a threat to its security. A country cannot deny a request just because it thinks its own courts should have jurisdiction over a dispute.
Article 16 allows for a default judgment only after six months from a request’s arrival at a Central Authority. Elaboration on this idea is far too complicated for this space.
Article 18 allows countries with federal systems to decentralize their Central Authority function (yes, this seems counterintuitive). We don’t. That is, the U.S. doesn’t have a separate Central Authority for Maine, Minnesota, and Montana. But Germany, Canada, and Switzerland all do. They divide their Central Authorities geographically, and determining the right one can get pretty complex, especially where language is an issue.
Article 19 allows for service by additional methods other than those indicated in Articles 5 & 10 if the methods are used in the receiving country’s courts and are specifically made available to foreign plaintiffs. I don’t know of any country whose law sets out a specific additional method. (To be sure, Norway does not have a statute that says “hey, even though we object to Article 10, it’s okay for foreign plaintiffs to hire a private eye to serve process for them.” Yet that’s what was argued once.)
That’s all, folks. At least, that’s all for the Cliff’s Notes version of the Service Convention. Questions are, of course, always welcome, as are comments. Don’t be bashful.