Photo by Rick Jamison on Unsplash

Friends, we’re not 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.  Likewise, a leaky approach to procedural rules can thwart an otherwise strong case just as it gets underway.

Serving process in Antigua and Barbuda is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.  A&B is a stunning pair of islands in the Caribbean– formerly a British colony and still part of the Commonwealth of Nations, and thus part of the common law tradition that we know so well on the North American continent. As such, service of process is viewed quite similarly, without much fanfare. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of uncertainty in the islands’ view of the Convention, so I can only recommend a single road to effective service.

You’ve got three ways start that road:

  1. 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),
  2. Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of your forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
  3. 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 abroadYou have to file a Letter Rogatory.  Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Here’s how service is effected in Antigua & Barbuda:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. Antigua & Barbuda have not filed a declaration to Article 5(3) requiring that documents be in English, but it’s their official language, and their courts all operate in English, so it’s a pretty fair assumption that you’re done. Game over, right?  Not so fast, counsel… make sure your 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.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several weeks or even months from submission to return of proof. 

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Tough to say. Ordinarily, the Convention website hosted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law posts each country’s declarations regarding various articles of the treaty, in order to clarify which are in effect and which are not. Antigua and Barbuda filed no such declarations upon accession to the treaty, so their position regarding translation requirements and alternative methods is unclear. As such, the only method whose legal effectiveness is certain is Article 5.

That said, an Article 5 Request to Antigua and Barbuda is not a fear-inducing prospect; their courts are sophisticated and well-developed, so high confidence is warranted as long as the Request carries a valid address for the defendant. A&B’s Central Authority information can be found here.

Bonus practice tip #1: if the idea is strategically sound, ask the defendant to waive service.  Note that I didn’t say accept— I said waive.  There’s a very important difference.

Bonus practice tip #2: if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client.  The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.