[Author’s note: this is the latest in a continuing series of commentary on practice-area-specific applications of the Hague Service Convention and other doctrines of international law governing service abroad– not only service of process, but other notices and orders as well. The obvious irony here is that I’m using two images of the great actor Sean Bean which, although developed in satire, are blatant rip-offs. My hope is that I’ll be forgiven, given my ardent and emphatic recommendation that my readers go back and watch The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones— at least Season One. If that’s unacceptable, I will readily cease & desist.]
It happens all the time. I’ll give a lecture or mention what I do at a bar association event, and the colleague I just met will express appreciation for what I do, tell me it’s a really neat niche, and then try to convince himself that our practice areas don’t overlap. I’m here to tell you that, yes, they do. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Sorry, Aaron. I’m a a copyright lawyer– I don’t do immigration. But thanks for doing that CLE. You’re a funny guy. (Funny how? I’m a clown? I amuse you?) No, I mean I really like how you got that picture of Ned Stark into your slide deck!
Wait a sec, there, pal. First of all… immigration? You’re kidding, right? You did just sit through my lecture on international law, right? Those are not the same concepts. (He’s not kidding, sadly.*)
Second of all (setting my incredulity aside), let’s say you do handle copyrights exclusively, no visa applications ever. What if some random website hosted somewhere overseas decides that “all your base are belong to us,” rips off your client’s content, and publishes it as their own? Your client justifiably seeks proper attribution and compensation, but the infringing party refuses to cooperate. So you sue.
But don’t you think you might have to serve the publisher? (Yes.) And just how are you going to go about doing that? (Hmmmm. I never thought about that.)
Well, if you’re going to serve in a foreign country, odds are quite good that the Hague Service Convention applies, so you’ve got to figure out what options are available to you.
Next, you may have to set up a translation of the documents. Never mind that the stolen copy is in English– so the bad guys must understand English– foreign translation requirements aren’t focused on the defendant’s comprehension. They’re focused on the foreign officials handling the documents.
Then ask the appropriate Central Authority for help. And pray that you’ve filled out your USM-94 correctly. [That’s a big one. Very important, the USM-94.]
If you don’t get them served…
You’ll have a tough time getting the copy attributed to your client without that defendant.
* A huge segment of the practicing bar thinks that international law is immigration law, and immigration law is international law. My local bar association even conflates the two ideas in its committee structure. This is so baffling that both the international lawyers and the immigration lawyers in town have given up trying to convince everybody else.