We aren’t building rockets here. But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky hull means the cruise ship might not get you to that cabana sheltered rum drink you’ve been craving. Serving process in the Bahamas is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which venue is hearing the matter. No longer an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, the Bahamas adopted an independent constitution in 1968,* and fully implemented the Service Convention thirty years later. Not even 200 miles off south Florida, the islands get a whole bunch of tourists– and commerce– from the U.S. & Canada, and lawsuits are a natural result.
Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, 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 confer coercive effect on subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad. You have to send a Letter Rogatory (the Evidence Convention isn’t in effect in the Bahamas). Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Now for the nuts & bolts aspect of our show:
- Translation: The Bahamas make no declarations to Article 5(3) of the Hague Service Convention. As a former British Colony, English is the operating language, so game over, right? Pack up and go home? Not so fast, counsel… make sure your individual defendant speaks English, because his U.S. Due Process rights follow him, in a sense. Anybody sued in a U.S. court must be served in a language they understand, so if they don’t speak English, translation is still necessary.
- Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney. If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
- Send to the Central Authority, along with the requisite fee.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely three or four months from submission to return of proof.
- The Bahamas do not object to service via Article 10 methods.
- Mail service is available, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
- Service via private agent (process server) is available to U.S. litigants under Article 10(b)/10(c).
Central Authority information for the Bahamas and for the other countries in the treaty—can be found here. Pretty straightforward stuff down there; not a lot of fanfare, if you’re careful and complete the right paperwork.
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.
* Interestingly, the UK didn’t see it that way until five years on, with the “grant” of full independence in 1973, although Queen Elizabeth remains the islands’ sovereign. Even more interestingly, the Queen’s uncle– who had abdicated, making her father king– was governor of the islands from 1940-45. Not a bad gig, if you ask me.