Valetta, Malta’s capital.
Briangotts via Wikimedia Commons.

We aren’t building rockets here.  But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky vessel means the cargo may not make it to its destination.  Serving process in Malta is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.  This chain of islands, a former British colony off the southern coast of Sicily, isn’t just the site of a boat race in Season 1 of The Crown.  It is also home to stunning scenery, bright sunshine, and a wonderful blend of English, Italian, and North African cultures.  Malta is a relatively new member of both the European Union and the Hague Service Convention– and service of documents is fairly straightforward. 

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.  At least not if you want it to work. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request.  Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Here’s how service is effected in Malta:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. English is one of Malta’s official languages, so game over, right?  Pack up and go home?  Not so fast, counsel… make sure your defendant speaks English, because his U.S. Due Process rights– and Canadian Natural Justice rights– follow him, in a sense.  Anybody sued in a U.S. or Canadian 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.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—perhaps several months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • None.  Malta objects to all of them, so Article 5 is the single avenue to proper service.  Their objections are a bit different from those of other countries (most just say “Opposition”) in that they specify an objection to the use of Article 10 methods “by other Contracting States”.  While that would seem to open the door to Article 10 by attorneys, remember that U.S. and Canadian lawyers are only involved in the Convention as “Forwarding Authorities” designated by our respective governments.

That’s it.  Really all there is to service in Malta– just go Article 5 and call it good..

But a 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.