This blog is primarily geared toward U.S. and Canadian attorneys who need to serve documents off-continent. For the most part, there’s no difference between what a U.S. lawyer must do and what a Canadian lawyer must do to serve in Asia or Europe or many other parts of the world. Our systems are incredibly similar, and so are our respective declarations to the Hague Service Convention. In short, if I say that “a Hague request must be filed with the appropriate Central Authority in (Country X),” that requirement applies whether the action is being heard in Manitoba or Mississippi. What I haven’t addressed– until now– is how Canadian actions must be served in the United States. So, for my colleagues north of the border…
Some background is in order, if you will, 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. But in the U.S., even that isn’t necessary. It’s far quicker and more effective to hire local counsel to file a request under 28 U.S.C. § 1782 in whichever federal district the evidence (or deponent) is located.
As to serving Canadian process in the U.S.:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents. The U.S. declaration to Article 5(3) requires that documents be in English. For most Canadian actions, that’s no problem, but if the action is being heard in Quebec, then the documents are probably in French. That triggers a natural justice question (due process in the U.S.), so it’s required even if the defendant speaks fluent French.
- Fill out a Hague Service Request, referred to down here as a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by an authorized person (this is an exhaustive list)…
– Attorney General for Canada
– Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General or Minister of Justice of a province or territory
– Clerks of the courts and their deputies for a judicial or a court district.
– Central Authority for Alberta
– Deputy Minister of Justice, Northwest Territories
– Huissiers and sheriffs
– Local registrars
– Members of the law societies of all provinces and territories
– Members of the Board of Notaries of the Province of Québec (for non-litigious matters only)
- Send to Process Forwarding International (the outsourcing agent for the Central Authority), along with a check for US$95.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—potentially a couple of months from submission to return of proof.
Article 10 alternative methods
- Mail service is available, depending on the venue court’s rules, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
- Service via private agent (process server) is available to Canadian litigants under Article 10(c). Technically, it doesn’t even have to be a professional process server, although that’s a good idea– if you have “the plaintiff’s cousin Todd” do it, there’s a good chance something will get screwed up. Easiest way to find someone: just Google “process server (city where the defendant is located)” and you’re good to go. Just make sure that you write the affidavit in a form used by the venue court.
The U.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.