Legal Document Translation Services for International Service of Process
Many lawyers are used to obtaining certified translation of documents for the process of service abroad. In most court cases, serving court-related documents is relatively straightforward. You file the lawsuit and either mail the documents or have a registered agent of the court serve them. However, serving a person or company who is involved in a US lawsuit but located in a foreign country is more complicated and often requires the use of multilingual legal translation services.
The serving process overseas is governed by a myriad of treaties and laws, including the 1965 Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (The Hague Service Convention), The Inter-American Service Convention, US law and The Foreign Services Immunities Act.
The Hague Service Convention
The Hague Service Convention, effective in the United States since 1969, is a comprehensive set of rules for managing process serving across international boundaries. More than 70 nations have adopted the Hague Service Convention. Most Western European nations, as well as China and Russia, have approved the Hague Service Convention.
The Hague Service Convention principles only apply to “civil or commercial matters.” The exact definition has not been fully vetted in international courts, but a German court ruled that the Hague Service Convention does not apply when serving process for cases that involve damage to the US government. The case involves the US False Claims Act and was a scheme to fix prices by European contractors selling to the US military.
The Hague Service Convention tries to establish uniformity for serving process across international borders, but that is not always the case. The convention only applies to the serving of process when the person or entity’s address is known, and it can sometimes run into conflict with US Constitutional law or the laws of a foreign country.
In some cases, process is served by a designated agent or a court in the foreign country, but in other countries US legal representatives are allowed to file process directly through the international postal system with delivery verification. You will need to research the specific rules in each country, as the different methods can impact the enforceability of a judgment established in a US court.
The original documents, along with a foreign language translation of the documents into the native language of the defendant, are required under Hague Service Convention rules for certain delivery methods.
Many times, a US attorney will want to hire counsel in the foreign country to assist in the service of process. The foreign attorney will be knowledgeable about the laws in that country and the best way to serve the documents to the party involved in the lawsuit.
The Inter-American Service Convention
Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela have signed The Hague Service Convention treaty, but most Central and South American countries have not adopted it. For this reason, the Inter-American Service Convention is often the proper procedure for serving process in countries like Brazil, Columbia and Panama. The Inter-American Service Convention is also limited to civil litigation.
Under the procedure, an attorney fills out paperwork and submits the paperwork to an authorized representative in the foreign country. All of the documents served in the foreign country must be translated into the language of the foreign country. The Inter-American Service Convention does not have provisions that allow for the serving of international process through the postal system.
Serving process in countries where no international treaty on serving process exists becomes more complicated. Often, the law of the country where the paperwork is being served is applicable. For example, Australia allows the serving of process from the United States through the mail because the method is legal under Australian law.