Serving a Subpoena Through the Hague Convention

Sometimes clients ask when a country is a signatory to the Hague Convention, what the method is to serve a subpoena in that nation. Unfortunately, the process is not so simple. This is because subpoenas are not considered enforceable documents under the eyes of international law.

This is because although a country may be a party to the Hague’s Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, this simply means a party may serve complaints and summonses through particularly detailed methods. In short, you cannot just simply serve a subpoena in another country outside of the United States. The process that is required to properly serve a person or entity is much more complicated and must be done precisely. Otherwise, the foreign government will refuse to comply.

Generally, subpoenas are not very useful once they have left the jurisdiction under which they are governed. When the subpoena remains within its own jurisdiction, the request must be complied with as it is mandatory to do so under law. Outside of its jurisdiction, however, a subpoena is simply just a request; it does not rise to the level of a demand within which it must be complied.

That being said, subpoenas do fall within the scope of the Hague, specifically its Evidence Convention. When a subpoena is served through the Hague Evidence Convention, the process is similar to that of letters rogatory under the Hague. A subpoena served through the Hague, however, will not look like one served domestically in the United States. The language and tone found in the latter should not be contained in the former. Instead, as part of the request, the purpose for which the evidence will be used it should be explained. Often times it is advisable to include how the evidence is critical to the trial theory of the case at hand. Failure to explain how the evidence will be used in the matter will give a foreign country little incentive to move to produce the information requested in the subpoena.

If the country where you need to serve the subpoena is not a party to the Hague Convention, then you do not need to send the document through that special process. Instead, the subpoena should be sent through Letter Rogatory in the same fashion that a summons and complaint would be sent to that country.

Bottom line? You do not “serve” a subpoena internationally. Instead, you send a carefully crafted request for evidence through the Hague Evidence Convention. Hopefully, you will receive the information you need for your case by persuading the nation to comply with the request for evidence.

If you have service of process needs domestically or internationally, contact us today.