Do Litigants Need a Special Appointment for Service Under the Hague Convention?

Many attorneys who approach LLS with the need for international service of process are under the mistaken assumption that they must have LLS appointed as a “special process server” to comply with the Hague Service Convention.

In the unique case of LLS, who has several attorneys on staff, this is simply unnecessary.

Special Appointments are Not Required when LLS is Involved

In countries signatory to the Hague Service Convention, the procedure for effecting service of process is outlined in the provisions of that treaty. Among these provisions is Article 3, which explains who may request service under the Treaty. Article 3 reads as follows:

The authority or judicial officer competent under the law of the State in which the documents originate shall forward to the Central Authority of the State addressed a request conforming to the model annexed to the present Convention, without any requirement of legalisation or other equivalent formality.

What this provision means is that an authority or “judicial officer” who is recognized as a competent authority in the US may request service under the Hague Service Convention. In the US, attorneys are competent “judicial officers” authorized to request service without first having any special appointment made by a US court.

Indeed, the US Department of Justice made this clear in the “Practical Information” comments made as part of its replies to the 2003 Questionnaire sent to the Hague Conference: “[t]he persons and entities within the United States competent to forward service requests pursuant to Article 3 include . . . any attorney . . . .”

LLS is Unique Among International Litigation Support Firms

Because LLS employs several licensed attorneys who are competent judicial officers under Article 3, there simply is no need to have any prior special appointments made before LLS can assist you with serving process upon defendants in Hague member countries.

This is probably not true, however, when dealing with other international litigation support companies who do not employ licensed attorneys.

Obtaining a Special Appointment for Service of Process by a Central Authority Could Cause you Serious Problems

One other item should be noted regarding “special appointments.” US practitioners should be aware that having a “special appointment” made naming a foreign Central Authority can cause problems when attempting to effect service abroad.

In fact, doing so may be construed by the Central Authority as an infringement of that country’s national sovereignty.

Pursuant to Article 3 of the Hague Service Convention, a competent judicial officer transmits a request for service – not an appointment to effect service – to the Central Authority in the foreign jurisdiction. The Central Authority then forwards the Hague Request to the local court in which the defendant is located and the local court actually effects service of process. It does so, however, under its own inherent authority and not as an agent operating pursuant to any authority vested by a US court.

Proper Service Under the Hague Service Convention is Service in Compliance with the Internal Laws of the Destination State

US practitioners must remember that, pursuant to Article 5 of the Hague Service Convention, the relevant documents will be served pursuant to the local laws of the foreign state, not the laws of the US jurisdiction where the case was filed and not pursuant to any special appointment that may have been made by the US court.

Additionally, pursuant to Articles 4 and 13 of the Hague Service Convention, if the Central Authority of the Destination State considers the request to be a violation of the country’s national sovereignty, it may reject the request for service. Then, the US practitioner will be forced to start the entire process again, wasting valuable time and money.

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