Way back in March, 2017, I posted a blurb about the limitations on serving offshore parent companies via their U.S. subsidiaries.  In short, I argue, you can’t simply serve a U.S. subsidiary and call it effective on the foreign parent.  You have to have a compelling reason to pierce the corporate veil.

This is basic 1L Civ Pro stuff.  It’s just too bad they never even mentioned service of process in either semester of Civ Pro in law school– jurisdiction and joinder were far too complex to allow for coverage of the basics, I guess.* 
Continue Reading Guess what– you still can’t serve via a subsidiary (unless…)

Native languages of extreme northern North America and Siberia have several different words for “snow”.  I went to Alaska on a cruise once, but I’m definitely not qualified to translate.

Hague Service Convention requests constitute 99% of my practice– that’s a literal statistic.*  Easily half of them are sent to countries that haven’t caved in to the pressure (good for them) and made English an official language.  As such, the lion’s share must be translated into German or Italian or French or Korean… you get the idea.  In most instances, my clients just have me take care of the whole shooting match, from soup to nuts.  Occasionally, though, a firm or solo lawyer has a relationship with somebody who purports to translate legal documents as a matter of course, so they prefer to handle the linguistic work themselves.  To be sure, we’re not a translation provider– we’re a law firm– so if you want to do your own thing, I don’t object.

But I do disclaim the heck out of it.

Continue Reading Yeah, buddy, they do check translations.

Phillip Burton Federal Building, San Francisco. Sam Wheeler via Wikimedia Commons.

Ah… faith in humanity restored.  Just a bit.

In a rant yesterday (NO, 4(f)(3) is NOT co-equal to Hague channels!), I took issue with the impossibly bad logic in another order approving electronic service on a Chinese defendant under Rule 4(f)(3).  Simply put, S.D. Cal. got it wrong, the latest in a string of cases steeped in impossibly bad logic.  But at the other end of the Golden State, Magistrate Judge Alex Tse, who has been on the bench a mere six months, got it right.

Continue Reading N.D. Cal. gets it right!


Yet another one popped up on the old radar (Google news alerts) yesterday… a National Law Review article highlighted Victaulic Company v. Allied Rubber & Gasket Co., Inc. in S.D. Cal., but the author’s conclusion was far too optimistic for plaintiffs seeking a way around the Hague Service Convention.  The court there held that service by electronic means on a Chinese defendant was perfectly acceptable under Rule 4(f)(3) because electronic service isn’t prohibited by international agreement.  My (internal scream) response to that:  WRONG.

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

(You should sense a rant coming.)

Continue Reading NO, 4(f)(3) is NOT co-equal to Hague channels!

Every once in a while, when a colleague is stymied by limitations to serving an offshore defendant, the thought comes to mind that “hey, I might try to get leave of court to serve the defendant’s U.S. counsel.”  It’s a great idea, and if the judge signs off on it, I don’t see how it could be unreasonable under the Mullane standard.  Getting to that point, though, is often done in an entirely wrong way: using FRCP Rule 4(f)(3) as a basis for the motion.

Why is that entirely wrong?  Because 4(f)(3) doesn’t apply if service doesn’t take place abroad. 
Continue Reading Service on U.S. counsel doesn’t arise from Rule 4(f)(3)

In a single day last week, Week Ten of America’s Covid-19 quarantine, I fielded essentially the same oddly segmented inquiry from three different lawyers across the country.  A rather disconcerting inquiry, to say the least.

“Hey, Aaron.  I’ve got an overseas defendant to serve.  I’ve talked to some process servers who tell me that you can’t personally serve anybody overseas right now, so I should just serve by mail.”

When I interject to tell them that, no, that’s a bad idea…

“But they say the Water Splash decision makes it okay.  That’s right, isn’t it?”

Oh, where to begin?  No, no, and no.

Continue Reading No, Water Splash isn’t a gift to litigators.

American Cemetery, Normandy.  (Photo by the author.)

My inbox is oddly flooded this morning.  Not with the usual client inquiries (it’s a holiday, after all), but with the normal spate of promotional emails and law firm newsletters I’ve come to expect on most statutory days off.  Sure, we’ve commercialized the heck out of every holiday, but that’s happened for centuries.  For retailers and restaurants to market their wares and fares on such days becomes much less bothersome as I get older.  What is more bothersome every year is the habit of wishing the recipient a “happy” Memorial Day in the subject header.

Continue Reading A solemn– not “happy”– occasion.

O’Connor, J.  Favorite daughter of Arizona and distinguished author of Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).

The question mark in that headline only applies to half of the headline.

The result might be correct, depending on facts not articulated in the order, but the logic behind N.D. Ohio’s grant of leave to serve by alternative means in China is (to put it delicately) fatally flawed– an illustration of how “kinda-sorta-bad” law can evolve someday into extraordinarily-unquestionably-bad law.  In NOCO Company v. Shenzhen Lianfa Tong Technology Co., Ltd. et al. (1:19-cv-01855), the court issued the latest in a nationwide string of wrong decisions because, apparently, none of the lawyers in the room consider Sandra Day O’Connor an authority.

I’m serious. 
Continue Reading Wrong reasoning, right result?

Tenzing Norgay (right) and Edmund Hillary after successfully completing the first ascent of Mount Everest at 11.30am, 29 May 1953. Via Wikimedia Commons.

About six months ago, I hopped on a conference call with some colleagues who asked me to deliver the keynote address for the annual convention of the National Docketing Association.*  The people the organizers expected to attend are the professional staffers– mostly non-lawyers– who make sure that those magic litigation machines called “law firms” run efficiently.  In short, they’re the support people in firms and court clerks’ offices who make sure lawyers can be lawyers—and that clients can win– by handling the processes that really don’t have much connection to legal analysis.  Processes that drive lawyers nuts. 
Continue Reading Law firm sherpas