by Joe Cuetara
The Basics of International Service of Process
The purpose of this note is to present you arguments to convince you and invite you to employ us for service of Judicial or Extra Judicial documents, Commercial or Civil in the Jurisdictions of Europe. I intent hereto give enough legal and logical arguments about our "Hybrid System".
International Personal Service of Process (IPSOP) is one of the services of Joseph A. de LA CUETARA, in practice, an International law Attorney providing litigation support services, as well as regular legal services on the European Union. Our services are: Service of Process, taking depositions or evidence, Legal Videographers, Collections, Judgment recovery or enforcing, Legal Research, Exequatur, Inter cultural negotiations (ADR-Mediation, Transactions, Conciliations and Arbitration), briefly, all those aspects of international private relations on the different Hague Conventions. We are registered and insured Attorneys at law, having physical offices in Spain and France and by the virtues of the treaty of Rome, creating the European Union, our legal practice is authorized in all of the European Union's Jurisdictions.
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. On 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 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 transform into critics to the methods and which are based on the need to eliminate some absurd 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 individuals 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 "search" 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, wasting 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 for any expenses such as access to a mercantile registry.
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 wasted time and money but they are liable of fraud to international law, defamation, Illegal 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:
a. High Cost
c. No distinction between Individuals and Corporations
2. Service Speed: Slow and can paralyze easily
3. Prior Exam of legality
a. Slows down
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 example 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!
We must distinguish between communications to the Central authority or with the Server and notification or service of process to the defendant. One is an organ and the other a defendant. Communication with the Central Authority of to the server can be by any means, even e-mail.
Also note that the Hague Convention obliges service of process to have two explicit and implicit requirements for acceptance: voluntarily and knowingly. These can be compared to a "bilateral obligation in Civil Law" (See Article 5 (b) alinea of the Hague Convention). Therefore, if the defendant is not "capable to understand" what he is receiving, service is viced and the "Defendant can refuse service". If documents are not translated he is not "capable to understand". The defendant is not sense to know foreign laws or could be economically challenged, but some presumption exist: If the defendant is not served multilingual Attorney at law and advise at the moment of Service or if the documents contain No Legal Notice and etceteras, the defendant is in "Procedural defenseless" and therefore service of process is not valid and useless.
Service to Corporations doing International Business, those under the Hague of 1956 for "Company recognition" it must be presumed that they speak the language of the Jurisdiction in which the carry business and know their laws. The Hague Convention does not distinguishes between services according to defendant; Individual or Corporations. Therefore, I consider the Hague as placing an obstacle in service to corporations, since the plaintiff is oblige to translate the documents. Logically Corporations should never use the central authority, they do not need it.
The Hague Convention indicates "voluntary acceptance" as a condition of service, this does not mean "Refusal at all times and systematically to get civil or commercial impunity". In this sense, service by Certified Mail, email, fax and other unilateral acts of service, which we can be consider as "Adherence" from defendant to service, have the common denominator that the defendant is not accepting voluntarily, since he is receiving something with unknown contents. The contents will discover later and he is accepting first, therefore contradicting the Hague convention confirming this way that these channels as good for a verification of an address but not of service.
In conclusion, Certified Mail, email and fax are not proper ways of serving and a Court accepting this kind of service are refusing rights to the defendant except if they are back up by a qualified professional's Affidavit of service.
"Service by Agent" as understood in common law, is not contemplated in the Hague Convention on Service of Process, it is another automatic reflex and has been used by many common law Attorneys. These agent services have required translations of documents because the Agent used, in most cases speaks the language of the Attorney requiring service. Often he is a foreign national in the country of service, sometimes illegal, but in any case not qualify to do this kind of Job. They provide "Shaky" services based on the fact that they speaks the language of the Attorney requiring service and dare to violate all kinds of laws, anyways most of them have nothing to loose..
These "Merchants of Process serving" use translations to increase profit and to reduce the possibility of future challenge of service. In most European countries, it is considered. that "Legal Guarantees", are only given to, and are given by registered and insured professionals, recognized and controlled by the governments and grouped in special associations or corporations submitted to strict ethics control: These agents are an insult to law and order. The law and confirmed Jurisprudence protects "defendant's rights" against poor "qualities and qualifications" of a "dummy server" or anyone from here or there, an intruder, who for a "fist full of dollars" will issue an affidavit. Therefore service by "Agent" is possible if and only if the Agent to be used is a qualified legal professional in the country of service.
It is a interesting anecdote, that I found an "International service of process company in Spain" that also does "plumbing" services from the same office, a business run by a felon issuing affidavits even to service completed to non existing address or people he never saw.
It is a shame that Justices and Attorneys in North America often, accept, for international service of process, affidavits of persons that do not offer any guarantees or have the essential "Public trust", looking down and with disrespect the rights of defendants and the laws of procedure of a foreign country. Indeed, employing anyone for international service of process, is a disregard on justice and disrespect for International and local law. To serve properly you must respect foreign laws of procedure! You must understand the European concepts involved in a "Procedural Notification" and respect for "Justice".
Finally, art. 10 c, considers as "Agent" a Judicial officer or bailiff. Service by these agent depend on the kind of person to served: Physical or Juridical. In some jurisdictions, serving a corporation must be to a "Registered Officer" as it appears on the mercantile registry of their country or to their legal department or representative and the place of service has to be the registered headquarters otherwise it will be a substitute service (Individuals or Corporations can be served at their Attorney's office). If Individuals, an agent can served them at their home or place of work., but not in a public place.
One excess of the Hague Convention is the requirement for an exact address for service, meaning that the requester must have the exact information. This requirement reduces the rights of the plaintiff since a qualified legal professional acting as agent can complete service to two addresses to avoid impunity of defendants, that is to say, serve the address in the writ of summons and the legal or present address.
Service can be completed by directly instructing a Judicial officer of a Bailiff, article 10 c of the Convention, employing them as organ and as server, but they will issue am "Act" or document in the official language of the country, you will have to pay for a supplent for translation into English language and eventually the legalization of signature. Our Hydrid service take's care of everything.
Please remember, the principle in Europe is the "Protection of the rights and obligations of litigants" by due diligence completed with integrity and by qualified and reliable professional not an "affidavit" obtained in obscure circumstances at any judicial cause price or at justice expense.
Summarizing: The two main methods both have the same legal value within the Hague Convention and no "Hierarchy" exist amongst them, one is bad and the other is worse, they are equally poor, but combining them is possible and results into a more reliable international service:
WARNING: Translations and Apostilles (Legalizations) are not necessary but if you use them remember that the Translator must be "Certified" by the "Foreign Affairs department" or the "Local Appellate or Superior Court". The use of a local Notary Public to certify the signature in a translation does not corrects the errors of "tacky" translations. The use of a non registered "Attorneys at Law" under most jurisdictions of the European Union for acts reserved to the legal profession causes "contamination of your case", engaging your liability: Protecting the rights of litigants is your obligation. Do not use simply anyone willing to issue a statement of service affidavit if not qualified.
Inventing International Service of Process: The Hybrid system
Our "Hybrid system of international personal private service of process" combines, not only "methods", but also the different channels or options of the convention, applied by steps and in less time that the "centralized". The result is a better service that takes the positive side of each method in order to obtain the best legal guarantees: We consider it as "System" , more than a method, please consult us so we can discuss your case service in detail and how our system applies.
The hybrid system for International Service of Process, heals the disadvantages of the Hague Conference's centralized method and the abuses in the use and application of the decentralized alternate method. It is a non complicated service of process having the characteristics of Legality, reliability and fast. On the other hand, the "system" applies the principles of the Hague Convention combined to each jurisdiction, incoming and outgoing, and their respective laws of procedure. The "legal order" is to obtain with the maximum legality and protection of litigants, its main characteristic is that: Service is double, a preliminary International service and an Euro service.
The system provides that the rights of the plaintiff and defendants are guarantee and protected by registered and insured multilingual Attorneys at Law in the country of service. Documents are delivered personally in all confidentiality by a legal professional who will give advise in the language of the defendant, making it comprehensive by giving complete legal notice and explaining how to proceed. All services are completed with mandatory secrecy and neutrality, Courtesy and professionalism under the respect for internal laws of Civil procedure.
The defendant does not have an option to refuse service, or claim to be "unprotected" there is no "a priori" exam of contents or delay, no translation's cost or apostilles, no promises of service but a "Jurisdictional act completed according to local law by a qualified legal professional", Note the advantages;
a. The defendant does not have an option to refuse service, or claim to be "unprotected"
b. Liberty to choose process server within the legal profession market value.
c. There is no "a priori" exam of contents or delay in exams
d. No translation's cost Nor apostilles, stapples,stamps or clips!
e. No doubt on delivery of Contents
e. Service with "Professional Integrity"
f. Customer service and Affidavit in English
g. Une of Bailiff when required
h. Service is guaranteed in delivery
i. Service is guaranteed in court
... and much more
Our price list, reflect the need of taking in consideration many legal and practical aspects of service in Europe, specially to avoid incidents and possible challenge, appellate "quash" proceeding, we provide services that are cheaper than the "Centralized" method and with the same value.
The different classes of service we proposed vary according to the required time for service: Urgent, and each has different protections. We always start by a "Skip Trace or Locate" in order to obtain an exact address as per mandatory requirement of the Hague Convention and to avoid you unnecessary expenses, then we mail a preliminary service of process to verify the address of delivery and physical existence. Our letter, asking for an appointment or an interview and placing ourselves as neutral Attorneys at Law available as required by law to avoid defenseless by counseling the defendant. During the interview, in presence of a local Judicial Officer or Bailiff when required, we verify the identity of the receiver, his knowledge of the language in which documents are written and explain in detail their rights and obligations. All of this procedure is condensed in a Custom made affidavit that is legalized by the Notary Public of the diplomatic representation of the lex fori (That is to say: the Consul)..
We hope we will count with you amongst our clients, please visit our website for forms, and do not hesitate to contact us by telephone, from U.S. dial 011 33 4 93 16 27 38 or by email if you have any questions or need written legal advise.
Joseph A. de LA CUETARA, JD-MBA
Attorney at Law/Abogado/Avocat
Palais Alphonse Karr 2, Rue Rossini
Nice 06000 France
email=Tl-Fax=http://011 33 4 93 16 27 38.info
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