(Author’s Note: this post was held for publication in honor of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who passed on Friday at the age of 93.)
Until this fall, serving process in the tiny-but-thriving nation of Singapore entailed a similar approach to serving in another U.S. state or Canadian province. That is, as a former British colony, it maintains a common law judicial system. As long as a competent process server was involved, and Singapore’s rules were followed in tandem with the forum court’s rule, it was smooth sailing (I always used a solicitor to direct the process server, just to ensure legal validity on both sides of the ocean). As of December 1, 2023, serving process in Singapore is now subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean the seas have become rough.
You’ve got three ways to go:
- 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 frequently help with subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just serve a subpoena in Singapore. At least, not if you want it to have much effect. Instead, file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Now, here’s how service is effected in Singapore:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents? Well, no. Again, in a former British colony– especially one so immersed in international commerce– English is still the prevalent, official language and English is required for all documents and requests sent to the Central Authority. But that isn’t the end of the analysis– if your defendant isn’t demonstrably competent in English, U.S. due process (in Canadian parlance, natural justice) necessitates that process be served in a language the defendant understands.*
- 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 it to the Central Authority along with the requisite fee.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several months from submission to return of proof, although Singapore is brand new to the treaty so there’s no track record yet.
Article 10 alternative methods
- They simply aren’t available, because Singapore objects to them all. Article 5 is the only way it can be done.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it. The method is straightforward and simple.
Singapore’s declarations and 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.