US and Canadian attorneys are familiar with service of process undertaken by both deputy sheriffs and private process servers.
Where service by mail is disfavored, more formalized steps are taken to substantiate that judicial documents are conveyed to defendants in lawsuits.
Usually, domestic service can be effected in a matter of days through the efforts of a professional process server.
Where judicial documents must be transmitted abroad, however, a host of international and foreign laws are implicated, and litigants who circumvent proper procedures will likely find that shortcuts become more costly than proper adherence to appropriate procedures for international service of process.
Service of Process: Civil Law Systems
In many civil law systems, particularly in continental Europe, service of process is most commonly carried out by special officers of local courts. Two terms in particular are pertinent to litigants seeking to serve in continental jurisdictions: Huissier de Justice and Gerechtsdeurwaarder.
Roughly translated (from French and Dutch, respectively), they are akin to a bailiff or marshal in English-speaking common law systems. However translated, they are judicial officers who perform official functions in a quasi-private manner.
Huissiers de Justice and Gerechtsdeurwaarders are respected members of the legal profession in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Québec.
Huissiers and Deurwaarders are legal officers whose duties include delivery of judicial documents, enforcement of judgments, and seizure of property. They are appointed by either the court or the government executive, and in many areas enjoy a statutory monopoly on these functions. Like judges and other court officials, they must remain neutral in the execution of their duties.*
Important to US and Canadian attorneys is the access to bailiffs by foreigners seeking to serve under Article 10 of the Hague Service Convention. This access tends to reduce the time necessary to effect service, as requests submitted to a Hague Central Authority can be slowed by bureaucratic red tape.
Because they are quasi-private actors, Huissiers and Deurwaarders function in a similar fashion to private process servers in common law systems. Where permissible, litigants can request service directly from the bailiffs themselves, although the parameters of the Convention must always be observed.
How LLS Can Help
Legal Language Services has established lasting relationships with Huissiers and Deurwaarders, as well as with the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Convention on Private International Law. Our staff attorneys are available for consultation regarding service of process abroad, evidence-taking, and enforcement of judgments in more than 90 foreign countries.
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*Both the comparable German official, the Gerichtsvollzieher, and the Italian Ufficiale Giudiziario, function in similar fashion to Huissiers and Deurwaarders, but direct access to these officers is not available to foreign litigants for the purpose of serving process. Gerichtsvollziehers are present throughout Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking Cantons of Switzerland. Huissiers also provide service in Francophone Switzerland, but these officials likewise are not directly accessible to foreigners.