International Service of Process in Europe

The Basics of International Service of Process

There are two main methods to choose from when serving documents on the European Union, both methods, are proposed by the Hague Convention of 1965 and have the same legal value, no hierarchy exist between them, but one is less reliable than the other, the legal effects are basically the same. We propose a third method, a mixture of the above which we call “Hybrid”. Any other methods employed are outside the Hague Convention or irregular.

The basic legal methods of the Hague Convention are the following;

One, a public service of the “Judicial Administration” called “Centralized Authority” because it uses the “Government” to transmit documents. Is is intergovernmental, in principle a free service but submitted to economical constrains with high possibilities of no completion.

Two, by the use of a service provider, alternative method, called “decentralized”, it can use an “International private process server”, “Mail” or “Local Bailiffs”; All under the Hague Convention regulations, Art. 10. It’s applicability varies with the country’s opposition. As a Private method, it is paid, and therefore submitted to market and quality control.

International Service of Process, by either method, is ruled by two different legal systems, linked by the treaty of the Hague. The main law, called « Lex Fori, » is the law where the documents are issue and where judgment takes place, “Lex fori forum”. These rules, govern service of process validity and recognition in the “lex fori forum”, but not necessarily its effects and legality in the jurisdiction where documents where served, “Lex loci”. Recognition and enforcement by the “Lex loci forum” depend on the respect for internal laws of civil procedure and the procedure of “exequatur” It is then to each “lex fori” and their “foum” to determine their requirements for an “acceptable service” but being their powers limited in space they can not enforce it abroad, so necessarily need to keep in mind that: The act of notification is completed under a different legal system with different exigences, those of a sovereign state which must be taken in consideration, based on International treaties and for future enforcement. Based on International Legal Principles, we can affirm that a “Lex fori forum” can not accept in a procedure a “foreign illegal procedural actuation”, an act that violates foreign laws.Oon the other hand the “Lex Loci forum” will not enforce a judgment obtained under these circumstances in. Because of this, you must act in harmony with local codes of procedure and the Hague Convention and not only with your own laws,.or, your liability will be engaged in a Criminal or Civil manner.

The Centralized method seems to be the most appropriate and reliable, but it is not, is not mandatory nor exclusive, as explained by the Hague Convention itself (visit the Department of State’s1 web pages for more information). Therefore the “Central Authority” is not the only organ proposed as available to serve documents abroad as Seattle Plumbing is the general believe or as promoted by many translation companies or unscrupulous servers who have created a :”Vox Populi” that takes advantage of ignorance of the treaty, to sell Translations and Apostilles.

Luckily for the legal profession, there are a series of alternatives or decentralized channels, Art. 10 a,b and c of the Convention, often more reliable and always faster and efficient. The method to employ must be in no conflict with the laws of Civil Procedure of both jurisdictions involved and both must be signatory countries as explained in Art. 5,b.: That is a legal harmony of “Lex fori” and “Lex loci”. These laws must be applied simultaneously when serving.

All signatory countries have accepted the “Centralized” method and not all accept all the channels of the the “decentralized method”. In Europe most countries accept both entirely. The reason is that most people believe that the alternate decentralized method does nor exist. The legal text are not interpreted or applied properly as it ends as a “Fraud to International law” and service is Void or Voidable.

The liberty of method is inspired by “International Civil Procedural Liberty” Convention, as expected by the Hague of 1954 giving flexibility to the Convention of 1965. The evolution of both and their application and Interpretation by jurisprudence has given a positive empiric result. Mondialisation of process, which needed a fast way for Judicial information exchange and judgment that adapts to it. World trade, has opened the door to more efficient and fast ways of litigation and serving process, resulting in a gain of time and money by cutting “Red Tape”. Nonetheless, there are limits to this liberty that trensform into critics to the methods and which are based on the need to eliminate some absurds requirements like the risky exam of legality prior to service or the choice given to defendant to refuse service if documents are not translated and the lacunae such as no distinction between service to Individuals or Multinational Companies, Nonresistance of presumptions and many more will see later..

The Hague Convention’s Centralized method has, as said many “legal lacunae” or serious defects:, the main one is that is a free governmental service that does not uses a “fast Independent Private Process Server.”, as is requested by many courts and litigants, it is defective and often deceptive method. It promotes the use costly translation and the contents of summons is exam for legality before they can be served. These requirements makes it slow and therefore not adapted to modern international litigation. It is also contradictory because under the veil of gratuity there are a series of unnecessary expenses that result in an expensive service, more that using private channels. I consider it promotes unnecessary translations because, if documents are not translated, the defendant can refuse service and in other cases the central authority will not be able to exam their legality, Article 5..

It is advisable not to have the documents translated unless you do it properly with the right qualified professional. As a preventive measure, if you do a translation to avoid “possible” future problems, the translation itself can be easily “questioned” in court during enforcement because European courts only accept as valid translations from tindividuals that give the necessary legal guarantees, either by Certification and/or Registration. Is is considered that only those listed each year by the different Courts or the Foreign Affairs Ministries. do reliable translations. There are other “glitches” that appear at the home Jurisdiction but these can be kept at home.

On the other hand, an essential defect of using the Centralized, is the requirement of an exact address of defendant. A problem, because there is no possibility of “locating a defendant” or “Skip tracing” The Central Authority does not “searches” for Individuals or Corporations. If a defendant changes address or the address is not correct , if he is a tourist or illegal, service is paralyzed and returned, waisting your time and money, sending you back to square one while court time is running. Interesting to mention is the situation of corporations which can change the address of the registered headquarters and do not have an immediate obligation to notify this changes to the Mercantile registry. The central authority will not pay tfor any expenses such as access to a mercantile regustry.

Another defect, is in the requirement for “Personal Private Service”, concept that is understood in different ways in different countries: Bailiffs or Local Judicial Officers apply the local Code of Civil Procedure and not the special instructions received from foreign jurisdictions. In practice, what is understood in Common law as “Personal” is understood in Europe as “Substitute” and the problem increases if we distinguish between service to corporations from service to individuals. When servicing corporations, this must be completed in the person of those individuals who have the power to represent the corporation, that is to say the “officers” publicly listed in the mercantile registry. Therefore service to the front desk, secretary, gardener or any employee of a corporation, is “Substitute service”. For individuals, most local laws allow officers to leave documents at the address specified or leave a note in the door as equivalent of service. These officers, do not need to understand the hierarchy of the Hague Convention in this sense and what are the “Lex fori Forums” needs . Instructions for service to the central authority, transform into let’s do it our legal which is not necessarily valid on the other jurisdiction.

Remark therefore, that the use of “insistence and perseverance” is not possible by the “Centralized method”, its efficiency is not good and it is only, by the use of a private personal server that you can achive the best results, have more legal security on service and what is the most relevant, you will be courteous to your adversary and sure of your case.

These above reasons explain why most Common Law Attorneys have used as many many “tricks” as possible or patches to remove these obstacles of the “Central” method, I do not blame them. Sometimes by the use of “an agent” which often is, their local process server, their friendly “tacky” translation company or their neighborhood’s Private Investigators. The reality is, that on the long run, not only they have waisted time and money but they are liable of fraud to international law, defamation, Ilegal practice of law,Revelation of Secrets… and to complete the apocalypse, if not prosecuted or challenged, the judgment obtained will not pass “Exequatur”.(Enforcement).

No doubt then, that ignoring European laws, rights of image and privacy amongst other can happen and can have undesired consequences. Jurisprudence has considered that services completed this ways as irregular and have engage the liability of the plaintiff.

The “Lex fori forum” and “Plaintiff’s Attorney” are obliged ex-lege to respect the lex-loci or the legal requirements of the jurisdiction where documents will be served and these starts at home with confidentiality, secrecy and a proper translation of documents as the basic right of defendant.

Service of Process must protect the defendant abroad. It is my understanding that “Lex fori” process servers, Non Certified Translations Companies, even with offices in Europe and other intruders in the chain of International litigation can severely contaminate a case.

There are, a series of channels in an “alternatives or decentralized method” , more reliable and with more efficient ways to serve, these are replacing the anachronistic central method.

Centralized Service of Process has the following characteristics:

1.Translation: a. High Cost b. Unnecessary c. No distinction between Individuals and Corporations
2.Service Speed: Slow and can paralize eassily
3.Prior Exam of legality a. Slows down b. Contradictory
4.Exact Address
5.Non Personal Service
6.No Courtesy
7.No Confidentiality

Hague’s Alternative method of International Service of Process

The Alternative method is composed by channels , using them has the same legal value and effects as the “Centralized” method, if the country of “Lex Loci” has presented no express opposition to them,.there is no hierarchy between “Centralized” and “Decentralized” methods.

Art. 10 a, Service by a Currier, UPS, Fedex, DHL, Postal, fax, internet (email or messenger), as confirmed by different jurisprudence are not reliable, even if they are contemplated and accepted in some countries. The reason is that they lack of “legal guarantees of delivery of contents” violating the Principle of Contradiction,and Equality in a fair Judgement. These channels can bring the defendant into “defenseless”. Therefore they are mostly considered by jurisprudence as “evidence of an address” more than evidence of a Legal Notification. The Hague Convention permits these in Article 10, but they require some logical complements to be “Legally binding” even if the Convention does not indicates those. Indeed, one can serve blanc pages by mail or fax since nobody will check the contents and thereto obtain a judgment by default. Because of this, I recommend a “Certification of Contents” necessary either on the sending Jurisdictions or in the receiving Jurisdiction by a qualified, but done by a qualified professional that has “Public trust” The postal of fax receipt are not an affidavit.

Understand that the objective of service of process abroad is transmitting information, a legal notification to a defendant, inform him of a “cause” in which he is part and which could have serious consequences in his patrimony, rights and obligations as they will in your own jurisdiction. These rights must be respected and protected by the rules of the legal art in order to avoid Arbitrary application of law and fraud to International law. To avoid this, the Hague Convention canalizes these notifications by taking in consideration internal laws Art. 5 but without providing a way to control it or a procedure for appeal..It imposes the protection of defendant’s rights and obligations as well as those of the plaintiff but does not says exactly how this could be materialized. Please determine, not if the notification was done but if it was “properly done. Service by mail, fax or email are very fragile channels that must be avoided..

These alternate channels are symbol of the “Liberty of Transmittal” but have enter into excesses, for exqample the email, reason why the decentralized method, has been wrongly understood by many Common law Attorneys,. Translators and Private Agents. This happened because the “mechanism of service” applied and employed has been the “known one” the one that sound logical, unconsciously applied in violation of foreign laws. Professionals have use what they know, as a reflex, they have used the same manners as for their state notifications and have sent abroad a joke. This has resulted, in failure to enforce, impossibility of judgment recovery or simply a challenged of service. A distinction must be made between a banal Service of Process and an International Service of Process and to honor international justice even if the effects of your judgment will remain in your jurisdiction do that international service properly, is just a matter of International legal courtesy.

The philosophy behind and the rational explanation, is that the concept of “Public trust” is very different to each culture and their legal order. Think about that opposite to Europe,- No Governmental Identification Card exist in common law countries, there is no central land and/or property registry, sometimes Notaries are simple individuals, Process Server and/or Translators have minimal requirements. In old and experienced Europe, everything is “suspicious” and therefore surrounded by the maximum guarantees of legal security enforced by the state at “Felony or Criminal level” to avoid any possible “misunderstanding”, “fraud”,”deviation” or “Abuse”.

In Europe. service of process, either for internal purposes, European Purposes or for International foreign courts, is considered as a penetration of “Jurisdictional Power”, when completed it is actually a “delegation of powers” to the server. In Europe. the monopoly of legal representation, actuation and consultation, has been given, traditionally and since middle ages, to the different “Legal Corporations”. Private agents are excluded of these basic requirements.

The legal professional associations are those of “Huissiers de Justice”,”Procuradores”, “Ufficiali Judiciario”,”Abogados”,”Avocats”,”Advogados”…. Unlike common law countries where almost anyone mentaly capable can perform these “legal contents and jurisdictional acts”. Please, know that only qualified legal professionals can serve properly and legally in most of Europe since are the only professionals, who can offer “Ex-lege” the required and necessary legal guarantees. Service by a “Agent” as known in common law does not exist in Europe nor in the Hague Convention, it has been used but this usage does not rises service by agents to a legal stage.

Logically explained: If any country’s laws of Civil Procedure establishes for internal service of process, a procedure that requires guarantees of public trust; given only by the use qualified professionals, how come, for International Service, you can expect to use anyone? An agent? In conclusion: When in Rome, do as the Romans!


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