What has become known in the United States as a Form USM-94 is a four-page document: (1) the Request for Service Pursuant to the Hague Service Convention, (2) a blank Certificate of Service, (3) a “Notice” or “Warning” — essentially, a cover page for the defendant’s benefit (which name it carries is dependent on how old the form is), and (4) a Summary of the Documents to Be Served. The second page is an interesting animal, because, in a perfect world, you would print the blank Certificate on the reverse side of the Request form, and the overseas Central Authority would complete and return that very page to you. When that happens, it’s very easy for the forum court to see that the Certificate relates to a particular Request. [Related: The Hague Certificate– all the proof you need.]
Most of the time, though, it doesn’t happen that way– like I said, in a perfect world. Nine times (or more) out of ten, the Central Authority will simply generate its own Certificate in Microsoft Word, typing in the details rather than handwriting them on your blank. This is at once a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing because the completed detail is actually legible, and that can never be a bad thing. In all cases, typed text > scribbled scrawl.
But it’s a curse because, very frequently, they don’t actually reference the Request you sent, they don’t indicate a case number or caption or parties’ names, they don’t actually name the defendant, or… see my point? Oftentimes, the Central Authority says the documents (which ones?) were served on February 19, 2018 at 1234 Main Street in Winchestertonfieldville, they were handed to Pat Smith– Receptionist (um, who?), and service is complete. With much love and admiration from the Central Authority (STAMP), on March 19, 2018.
Uh, okay. Thanks?
The Certificate is then stapled to a 37-page sheaf of documents in a language you can’t read, themselves stapled again to the duplicate copy of the Request and service documents, which you provided– including the completely ignored second page.
Don’t be alarmed. This is normal. Just be careful to scan the right information before you e-file. That is, make sure that whatever you upload to the court connects the dots between the Certificate and your Request. Beyond that, the other documents are superfluous. Yes, the judge may want to see them, but they are legally unimportant, because the court shouldn’t look behind the Certificate to make sure the documents were served in accordance with the foreign jurisdiction’s law. The Certificate itself is like Kevlar– bulletproof– so long as it is based on a valid request (and defense counsel should ALWAYS question that).