For most of my childhood, Romania was one of those countries that adventurous travelers wanted to see… we just couldn’t go there because it was behind the Iron Curtain, a Soviet puppet state ruled by a ruthless dictator. That changed dramatically in December, 1989,* when the world got to watch that dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, removed from power and his Communist regime toppled. Three decades on, Romania is not only democratic, but a member of the European Union and NATO, literally the front line between the Ukrainian War and the west. I could go on, but this is about civil procedure, so…
Service of process in Romania is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention. This holds true regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. You’ve got three ways to go about serving a defendant in Romania:
- Tap us on the shoulder for bespoke attention—and probably some amusing commentary to boot (see the upper right if you’re on a desktop, or way down below if you’re on a phone/tablet),
- Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of your forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
- If you’re feeling froggy & would like to handle the whole thing yourself, keep reading. This lays out the framework you’ll need.
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 pertain to subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Here’s how it’s done in Romania:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents. Romania’s declaration to Article 5(3) does not specifically require documents to be translated, but it’s a bad idea to omit a Romanian version unless you’re highly confident in foreign officials’ willingness to serve documents they can’t read, and a defendant’s willingness to accept documents that hale them into a foreign court. Perhaps this is not a fight worth having, if you ask me… so unless the stack of documents is truly voluminous, just translate it.
- 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 appropriate Central Authority, in this case Ministry of Justice in Bucharest.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several months from submission to return of proof.
Article 10 alternative methods
- Mail service is available, depending on your venue, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
- Service via “other competent persons” is ostensibly available to U.S. litigants under Article 10(b)— but as Romania has not designated who is and who is not competent to serve, this is a bit of a distractor.
- All in all, I suggest using Article 5 to eliminate all doubt as to validity.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it. The method is straightforward and simple. Romania’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
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. That actually happened once, with a defendant in Norway, and her lawyers were smart enough to fight the issue. The Washington Court of Appeals erroneously thought going outside the Central Authority was okay, but their Supreme Court saw the matter differently.
* The week of my 18th birthday, as luck would have it. I was a college freshman– and a political science major– so I spent much of college utterly enthralled with the dramatic changes in the old Soviet sphere of influence, culminating with the fall of the USSR in 1991. It was thrilling and fascinating to watch.