Trafalgar Square, London.  Just a few blocks from the Royal Courts of Justice and England’s Central Authority.

Client queries: “hey, Aaron, the clerk says the Hague Service Convention requires certified copies of the Summons and Complaint and something called an Apostille.  Where do I get that?”

I get some variant of that question pretty regularly, most often from colleagues within just a few miles of me.*

For starters… no, the Hague Service Convention says nothing of the sort.

Sure, at one time, some Hague Central Authorities required court-certified copies to be submitted (they questioned the validity/authority of a document rolling off my laser printer), but as e-filing has become a global norm, rather than an outlier, this problem has faded away.  And sure, some local judicial authorities balk at the lack of all the stamps and ribbons and pretty little bows that adorn legal documents in their systems, but Central Authorities seem to coordinate pretty well with the locals nowadays, and have all but eliminated the problem.

In fact, the Hague Service Convention specifically abrogates the need for either certification or an Apostille.  Article 3(1):

The authority or judicial officer competent under the law of the State in which the documents originate shall forward to the Central Authority of the State addressed a request conforming to the model annexed to the present Convention, without any requirement of legalisation or other equivalent formality.

(Emphasis mine.  For the record… legalisation?  That isn’t a typo.  They spell it with an S in diplomatic English.  Personally, I think the Z ought to be there, but they didn’t ask me.)

If you’re curious about what an Apostille even is, see here for a fun primer.  They’re awfully handy instruments to confer legal effect on documents sent abroad, but they’re wholly unnecessary for Service Convention purposes.

Point is, if the clerk tells you that special formatting or authentication is required to properly serve a defendant in a Hague jurisdiction, that’s simply incorrect.  All they need to do is format the summons as if it’s to be served on the other side of State Line Road, et voilà.  The docs are ready to send my way (or a translator’s way, as the case might be).

What gets served (and in what format) is determined by the forum court’s own rules… the Hague Service Convention only delves into how.


* Why this stuff happens most often in my own county is beyond me.  Apparently, not quite everything is up to date in Kansas City.