The most common question I get, aside from “how much is this going to cost?” and “how long will this take?” is this:

“What does the Hague Service Convention require me to serve?”
The quick answer: nothing.

No, really.  The Convention doesn’t require service of anything in particular– it’s a roadmap, rather than a checklist.  Article 1:

The present Convention shall apply in all cases, in civil or commercial matters, where there is occasion to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad.

As long as there is “occasion to transmit abroad for service”, the Convention makes no mention of what is to be served.  It really only gets into how.*  Put another way, it only tells you how to get there, rather than what you should pack in your suitcase when you want to hit the open road.

“So again, smart guy,” inquires the client, “what do I have to serve?”

Well, in broken Latin, that’s determinatae a lex fori.  Determined by the law of the forum.

Quite literally, look to the rules of the court that is hearing the case– but bear in mind two things:

  1. Only serve what is REQUIRED.
  2. Serve EVERYTHING that’s required.
Our luggage, about to disembark from a cruise in Seattle… back when travel was still possible.

If you have to serve (1) a summons and (2) a complaint and (3) an ADR Information Packet on a defendant in Paris, Texas, you’ll have to serve all three documents on a defendant in Paris, France.

Berlin, North Dakota… Berlin, Germany.

New York… (Old) York, England.

(You get the picture.)

That’s something you have to determine based on federal or state rules, as well as the particular court’s local rules– because they often go beyond the broader requirements.

Where the Hague Service Convention comes in is to make sure the “how” is taken care of properly.  Just be sure to send documents in duplicate where required.


* That said, be very wary of serving anything discovery-related, bearing in mind that you can’t merely “serve” a subpoena if you want it to actually work.  The Service Convention does precisely zilch to confer coercive effect on subpoenas.