Mustafa Kemal Atatürk… he’s still very big over there. A bit like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and FDR all rolled into one in the local zeitgeist.

[Ten years ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Republic of Turkey on a CLE adventure.   A dozen lawyers (some with their families!) had an amazing time hitting seven cities in ten days… and meeting some truly wonderful people.  In a nod to that country’s wishes, I’ll spell it Türkiye* from here on out.]

Service of process in Türkiye 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 get it done:

  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.

Here’s how it’s done in Türkiye:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. Türkiye’s declaration to Article 5(3) does not specifically require documents to be translated, but the defendant is afforded a chance to reject untranslated process (“the performance of the service is up to the Addressee’s will”).  That rejection puts you back at square one, and that’s not a fight worth having, if you ask me..  You can be right or you can be happy… so unless the documents are incredibly 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 Ankara.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely many months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • They simply aren’t available, because Türkiye opposes 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.  Türkiye’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.


* Seriously– don’t use the English spelling if you want your stuff to pass muster.


The Grand National Assembly, Ankara

 

Façade of the Library of Celsus, among the ruins of Ephesus.

 

Your author, on the Euphrates River, crossing into Mesopotamia. May, 2012.
Offloading medical supplies in the waning days of the 1989 revolution. U.S. Air Force photo.

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:

  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.

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.

“Empty” Romanian flags with the communist insignia cut out, from an exhibit at the Military Museum, Bucharest.

 

A Romanian sub-officer gives the victory sign on New Year’s Eve 1989. He has removed the insignia of communist Romania from his ushanka.
Flag of Portugal at the Castelo de São Jorge in Lisbon. Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons.

Portugal is erroneously considered the “little brother” of the bigger country next to it on the Iberian Peninsula.    It has its own culture, its own language, and one heck of a lot more progressive recent history than its neighbor-who-shall-not-be-named.*  At one time, it was a global colonial power, and it counts some of the 16th century’s greatest explorers among its sons.   Pertinent to litigators today, serving process in Portugal is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  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 & prefer 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 and expect it to actually work.  You have to file a Hague Evidence Request, which is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Here’s how service is effected in Portugal

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents into Portuguese. Portugal’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request.
  • Fill out a USM-94, and do it in Portuguese.  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—possibly a year or more from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Mail service may be available, depending on your venue, but it’s a bad idea anywayIt’s an even worse idea amid the Covid pandemic, so save yourself a headache by using a more formalized method.
  • Service via local counsel is available under Article 10(b)– a Portuguese attorney can effect service without the involvement of the Central Authority, using the local procedure as if the action were brought in a Portuguese court.  It can save a bit of waiting, but the cost in many cases outweighs the speed.  If time is of the essence, though, this can be a fantastic option.  Just make sure local counsel is adept at Hague issues.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Portugal, but don’t get excited.  Sure, the method is straightforward and simple, but it’s going to take a while, even if you have a lawyer handling things for you in-country.  The wheels just move more slowly than they do over here.

Portugal’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.


* Of course, I mean Spain.

Quite possibly the coolest national flag in the western hemisphere.  After all, Maserati apparently adopted in for its logo

We aren’t building rockets here.  But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky hull means the cruise ship might not get you to that cabana sheltered rum drink you’ve been craving.  Serving process in the Barbados is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which venue is hearing the matter.   Barbados gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, though it remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and fully implemented the Service Convention just three years later.  As of today, Barbados is a Republic, but still a member of the Commonwealth, and still home to a pop mega-star called Rihanna (and her umbrella).*

And still, nothing has really changed in the application of the Hague Service Convention– it’s simply about time I posted something about this tiny island nation and the way they handle service of U.S. and Canadian process.  Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined…

Now for the nuts & bolts aspect of our show:

Article 5

  • Translation: Barbados makes no declarations to Article 5(3) of the Service Convention. As a former British Colony, English is the operating language, so game over, right?  Pack up and go home?  Not so fast, counsel… make sure your individual 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 months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10

  • Barbados does not object to service via Article 10 methods.
  • Mail service is available, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
  • Service via private agent (process server) is available under Article 10(b)/10(c).

Central Authority information for Barbados and for the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.  Pretty straightforward stuff down there; not a lot of fanfare, if you’re careful and complete the right paperwork.  Oh, and a 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.


* Ahem, that’s The Right Excellent Robyn Rihanna Fenty… who was named a Barbadian National Hero in ceremonies marking the island’s transition to Republic status last night (11/29/2021).

 

Ministry of Justice, Warsaw. Adrian Grycuk, via Wikimedia Commons.

I say all the time that we aren’t building rockets here.  But we are building a ship, of sorts, and a leaky ship means that people could not possibly reach North America from Europe.  A whole bunch of immigrants from Poland actually did reach North America over the past centuries, and they enriched our culture in a host of different ways– even making Chicago the second-largest Polish city (at least, at one time).  With so many family ties to the old country, it’s no surprise that litigation pops up now and again, which means attention must be paid to doing things right.

Serving process in Poland 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 get it done:

  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.

Here’s how it’s done in Poland:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. Poland’s declaration to Article 5(3) does not specifically require documents to be translated, but the defendant is afforded a chance to reject untranslated process.  That rejection puts you back at square one, and that’s not a fight worth having, if you ask me… 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 Warsaw.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • They simply aren’t available, because Poland 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.  Poland’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 Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Thebes. Vyacheslav Argenberg via Wikimedia Commons.

Nope.  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, service of process in foreign countries must be undertaken in a very particular way, lest a judgment be thrown out later (or never won at all).  Serving process in Egypt is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  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 confer coercive effect on subpoenas.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad.  At least not if you want it to work. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request in most instances– or a Letter Rogatory in Egypt, which isn’t part of the Evidence Convention.  Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Here’s how service is effected in Egypt:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents into Arabic.  Egypt’s declaration to Article 5(3) doesn’t specify whether it’s required, but do it anyway.  Although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents could prompt the Central Authority– or more likely, some local official– to reject your request.
  • 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 months or more, from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • They simply aren’t available, because Egypt objects to them all. Article 5 is the only available channel.

That’s all there is to it.  There’s really only one way to get the job done, and going around official channels to effect service is a surefire path to disaster..

Egypt’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.

Ocho Rios, Standish77 via Wikimedia Commons

Squarely in the heart of the Caribbean Sea lies an island that has played host to countless movies, spring break junkets, and movies about spring break junkets.  The mere mention of Jamaica conjures images of Bob Marley, cabanas under palm trees, and scantily clad beachgoers who have escaped the frigid northern winter.  And lots of tour packages… which naturally leads to lots of litigation.

Jamaica is not party to the Hague Service Convention (HSC), although it has acceded to the Hague Apostille and Child Abduction Conventions.  Notwithstanding its absence from the HSC, serving documents in Jamaica is relatively straightforward, owing to its status as a former British colony and current member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  It maintains a healthy common law system, so it should not be unfamiliar to American or Canadian* lawyers.

Service of U.S. (and most likely, Canadian) process can be effected (1) by mail, if permissible under forum court rules, (2) by Letter Rogatory, or (3) via private process server.  In all cases, enforcement of a judgment must be kept in mind– and it is in that light that I recommend Door #3 for just about every case that come across my desk (yes, I’ll be happy to handle things for you).  Addressing each in turn:

  1. Mail:  Most U.S. courts, where service is allowable by mail to begin with, allow mail service on foreign defendants only where it is not prohibited by the rules of the foreign jurisdiction.  Frankly, I’m still not a big fan of service by mail– it’s a bad idea when there are other practical methods available.
  2. Letter Rogatory:  an official request from the forum court for judicial assistance from a Jamaican court.  Costly and time consuming, this instrument really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (see here for elaboration on what it is).  For starters, budget a $2,275 fee to the Department of State just to convey the thing.  Then anticipate several months of waiting before a response comes back through diplomatic channels.  A Letter Rogatory simply isn’t necessary to ensure that service is effected according to Jamaican law.
  3. Private process server:  Significantly faster than a Letter Rogatory, and certainly on a more solid factual footing than mail.  A Jamaican process server can ensure that local rules are followed, thus ensuring that the manner of service will not give a court cause to reject an enforcement action later.  Just make sure that the proof of service demonstrates compliance with both bodies of law– down there and here at home.

Some non-Hague jurisdictions present significant problems with service.  Jamaica is definitely not one of them— indeed, it is among the simplest places to serve, either within or outside the Hague community.


* Commonwealth procedures may govern the manner in which Canadian process should be served in Jamaica.  The author is not admitted to practice in any non-U.S. jurisdiction, so although the information presented here may be accurate, it should not be presumed to be exclusively applicable in Canadian causes of action.


You really didn’t think I’d let this post end without a picture of a bobsled, did you?

Manila– a thriving, modern metropolis. Patrickroque01 via Wikimedia Commons.

I say all the time that we’re not building rockets here.  But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky ship means lost cargo, and perhaps the inability to reach port.  Serving process in the Republic of the Philippines is now subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.  Noting that the Foreign Ministry has yet to submit declarations to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the following guidelines are drawn from Administrative Order No. 251-2020, by the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines.

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 confer coercive effect on subpoenas.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena in the Philippines and have it actually do what you want it to do.  You have to file a Letter Rogatory, which is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Now, here’s how service of everything else is done…

Article 5 Service

  • Again, no declaration to Article 5(3) discusses translation, but the Supreme Court’s Order indicates that documents must be in either English or Filipino.  Your docs are in English, so game over, right?  Pack up and go home?  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, along with the requisite advance fee.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while from submission to return of proof.  The judge is just going to have to accept that fact, because there is no viable alternative…

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Forget them, because without any declarations to Article 10, it’s impossible to tell the forum judge with a straight face that they’re valid.  True, Article 10 says specifically that “Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with…” those methods.  It could be argued, then, that because they haven’t expressly objected, alternatives are valid.  I wouldn’t take a chance just because a quicker & cheaper alternative* seems plausible.  There is a mechanism in place that leads to essentially bulletproof proof of service.

The Philippines’ declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it in the Philippines, but don’t get excited just yet.  The method is straightforward and simple, but this is a brand new procedure for the Philippines’ courts.  Until there’s a track record, predictions are impossible.

 


* I’m looking at the mailman here.  Quick & easy is a bad idea.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna.

I say all the time that we aren’t building rockets here.  But we are building a ship of sorts, and if the vessel is leaky, we won’t make it to port and the captain will be grumpy.  Woe be his kids who are running around town singing nonsense songs and wearing drapes.*

Do it the right way, and your journey is smooth.  Serving process in Austria is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter– and that looks to make things easier– and significantly cheaper– than it was before.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  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 help with subpoenas.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad, at least, not if you want it to have much effect.  Instead, you have to file a Letter Rogatory, roughly similar to a Hague Evidence Request (although Austria is not a party to the Hague Evidence Convention).  The same Cardinal Rules apply—this is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Now, here’s how service is effected in Austria, noting that Austria has not fully expressed its wishes regarding certain issues arising under the treaty:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. Under the pre-Hague regime, Austria not only required a translation into German– they insisted that their own certified translators do the work.  Although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request.  (And to be sure, they may still require the work to be done in Austria, even though this arguably conflicts with the treaty.  Absent more guidance, it’s impossible to say.  Update, April, 2022: I’ve sent several requests successfully without the use of Austrian court-certified translators.)
  • 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 the case of Austria, it’s the Bundesministerium für Justiz (Ministry of Justice).
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Alternatives are not available, because Austria objects to Article 10 in its entirety.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it.  The method is straightforward and simple.  The declarations and Central Authority information of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.  Once more substantial guidance is issued, this space will be updated.

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.


* For the uninitiated, Austria is home to the legendary Von Trapp family, the subject of one of my favorite musicals.  I don’t sense that the real Captain Von Trapp was as grouchy as Christopher Plummer made him out to be.  Until a couple of years ago, I had two mental images of Austria.  One was bucolic Salzburg “in the last golden days of the thirties”—that of the Von Trapps and The Sound of Music.

The real Georg von Trapp as a younger man. Public domain, Wiki.

The second was the snowy Vienna of Amadeus—that of footlit operas, a clownish genius in Tom Hulce’s portrayal of Mozart, and an Emperor who looked a little too much like the vice-principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Tell me I'm wrong.
Tell me I’m wrong.

In 2015, Woman in Gold changed that… the list now includes the works of Gustav Klimt and an epic legal battle arising from the Nazis’ theft of priceless art works.  I watched the film on a transatlantic flight and was thrilled, but bemused, because the young lawyer handling the case (Ryan Reynolds) walked into Austria’s consulate in Los Angeles with his client (Helen Mirren) and served process by sliding a summons through a banker’s window to a receptionist.

Alarm bells started going off in my head, because for one thing, you shouldn’t hire Deadpool to represent you.  Not even Wade Wilson can just walk into a consulate and drop a summons on the receptionist’s desk.  The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act says otherwise.  (To be sure, I tried to contact Randy Schoenberg, the lawyer played by Reynolds, to see how he actually did it.  No answer.  Either he did it some other way and Hollywood embellished, or defense counsel didn’t know how easy it was to get that thing kicked.)

Woman in Gold, Gutav Klimt, 1907
Woman in Gold, Gustav Klimt, 1907

In any event, a fantastic movie with a compelling story, and a stunning work of art at the center of it all.

I give you… phở, (pronounced FUH, as in “fun”)  the most amazing bowl of soup in the solar system and, coincidentally, the national dish of Vietnam. North or south, it’s amazing.  No, really– love yourself enough to eat this stuff on the regular.  Codename5281 via Wikimedia Commons.

For most of my childhood, Vietnam was considered an enemy state– run by a totalitarian regime worthy of America’s scorn.  My parents’ generation fought a brutal war there, and endured a bitter division about that war here at home.  The whole idea of Vietnam was a painful wound in our nation’s psyche.  Mercifully, that changed in 1995 when Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who had spent seven years as a prisoner of war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, argued successfully that we should normalize relations.  It was (and remains), after all, a country filled with amazing people and a culture that goes back millennia.  [Around the time President Clinton did normalize relations that same year, I discovered my all-time favorite lunch at a great little family joint in my hometown.  See above.]  But I digress.  On to business…

Since October, 2016, serving process in Vietnam has been subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  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, at least, not with any coercive effect.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena in Vietnam.  You have to file a Letter Rogatory, roughly similar to a Hague Evidence Request (although Vietnam is not party to the Hague Evidence Convention).  The same Cardinal Rules apply—this is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Now, here’s how it’s done in Vietnam:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents, and provide a signed certification from the translator. Vietnam’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request.
  • 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 in Hanoi.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely several months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Mail service is available, provided the delivery requires a signed receipt, but I’ve always argued that it’s a bad idea anyway for precisely that reason.  If you do select this route, pay particular attention to the venue court’s rules about how mail service is initiated—in federal cases, adhere strictly to FRCP 4(f)(2)(C)(ii).
  • Engaging “other competent persons” under Article 10(b) or 10(c)?  Nope.  Sorry.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Vietnam.  The method is straightforward and simple.

Vietnam’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.