Ireland is one of the signatories to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.
The Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f) provides that service on an individual in a foreign country may be served by any internationally agreed means of service such as the methods authorized by the Hague Convention.
The Supreme Court of the United States has recognised the mandatory nature of the Hague Convention in
VOLKSWAGENWERK AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT v. SCHLUNK, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).
We acknowledged last Term, and the Court reiterates today, ante, at 699, that the terms of the Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, Nov. 15, 1965, 1969. 20 U.S. T. 361, T. I. A. S. No. 6638, are “mandatory,” not “optional” with respect to any transmission that Article 1 covers.
Article 1 of the Convention provides that the Convention “shall apply . . . where there is occasion to transmit a judicial . . . document for service abroad.” “Service” means a formal delivery of documents that is legally sufficient to charge the defendant with notice of a pending action. Source: US Supreme Court.
You may think therefore that it is a straightforward matter to effect service on Irish citizens or residents in litigation cases as the Hague Service Convention provides for a number of methods of service including
- Post or mail with a return receipt (however, see caveat below re service by mail)
- Directly through the Central Authority of the country in which you wish to serve documents
- Instructing a local solicitor in Ireland to deal with the matter of service.
However a quick look at the background of Ireland’s ratification of the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matter is worthwhile and may save you a lot of money and heartache.
Ireland and the Hague Convention
The Hague Convention provides for a government sponsored “Central Authority” which oversees the service of legal papers from other signatory countries to the Hague Convention. In Ireland, the Central Authority is the Master of the High Court.
As the Central Authority, the Master of the High Court ensures that the document is properly served, either in accordance with domestic forms of service, or in accordance with a particular method requested by the applicant, unless the particular method is incompatible with Irish law.
Ireland ratified the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters in 1994. However, in doing so Ireland made an objection pursuant to Article 10 and made declarations pursuant to Articles 3 and 15.
The objection Ireland made under Article 10 was to
i. the freedom under Article 10(b) of judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of origin to effect service in Ireland of judicial documents directly to judicial officers,officials or other competent persons and
ii. the freedom under Article 10(c) of any person interested in a judicial proceeding to effect service in Ireland of judicial documents directly through judicial officers, officials or other competent persons.
However this objection is not intended to preclude any person in another contracting State who is interested in a judicial proceeding or his lawyer, from effecting service in Ireland directly through a solicitor in Ireland.
This objection raises two questions which have to be answered before the service of foreign process in Ireland is valid.
1) Whether the mode of service followed is valid under the law of the State of origin and
2) The competency of the Irish official who effects service.
Under the terms of this objection therefore there are only two officials who possess the necessary competence to effect service under the Convention in Ireland.
These are the Central Authority in Ireland (the Master of the High Court) and a solicitor in Ireland.
No one else is to validly effect service in Ireland under the terms of the Convention.
This means that although service may ultimately be valid according to the law of the State of origin, it is not good service for the purposes of the Convention.
So if you wish to ensure valid service in accordance with the Hague Convention, the use of legal services agents or town agents or law agents will not suffice and will not be good service in accordance with the Hague Convention.
This is not explicitly stated anywhere but arises by implication from Ireland’s objection to the ratification of the Hague Convention as outlined above.
Unfortunately many foreign legal firms are unaware of this limitation and make the mistake of engaging the services of a law agent of one kind or another, much to their detriment because service can only be effected direclty through the Central Authority or by using an Irish solicitor who will submit the documents and request form on your behalf.
(Note: in information provided by the Central Authority in Service Convention questionnaires in 2003 and/or 2008 the Irish authorities provided this information:
|– the Central Authority;
– a practising Solicitor;
– a County Registrar; and
– a District Court Clerk.
Service by mail/post
Firstly whilst service by mail or post may appear to be the least expensive method you may run into problems in enforcing your judgment in Ireland as there is no treaty in force between the US and Ireland in relation to enforcement of judgments obtained in the US against assets in Ireland of the defendant.
US Courts are also divided as to the propriety of service by post with conflicting judgments being handed down in Florida and other states as set out in this document from the American Bar website.
In addition, you run the risk of only proving that you sent process to a particular address and not actually serve the person in question. This will no doubt lead to difficulty.
Service through the Central Authority
Effecting service directly through the Central Authority of Ireland (the Master of the High Court) by sending a request for service directly to the Central Office of the High Court is problematic also because it is slow and there are only a very small number of personnel to deal with a growing number of cases and to effect service.
Service by an Irish Solicitor
The best and most effective method if you think that ultimately you will need to enforce your Judgment against the assets of an Irish defendant is to instruct an Irish solicitor.
He/she will deal with the paperwork, liaise with Central Office and arrange service of the documents directly provided the request for service requests that the solicitor be permitted to serve on the Defendant which is common.
Once service is effected by the Irish solicitor he sends one set of papers back to the Central Office of the High Court who then certify service. It is this certificate of service which is accepted as proof of service under the Hague Convention.
In summary Ireland’s ratification of the Hague Convention was done in such a way as to leave only 2 avenues of good service in accordance with the Hague Convention open to you:
- through the Central Authority
- by instructing a solicitor in Ireland.
You will need to fill out the Request for Service form correctly.
You may also want to read enforcing US judgements in Ireland-the common law principles.