The case of the day is South Carolina v. Hitachi Displays, Ltd. (D.S.C. 2013). South Carolina sued Epson Imaging Devices Corp., a Japanese company, for conspiring to fix prices on thin film transistor-liquid crystal display panels. The case had been stayed pending resolution of a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court. The state asked Epson’s US counsel to accept service by email, but he refused. It then sought to serve Epson in Japan via the Japanese central authority, but its request apparently used an old address for Epson, and the central authority could not effect service.
South Carolina then sought leave under FRCP 4(f)(3) to make service on Epson via its US counsel. The judge denied the motion. For the most part, this seems a permissible exercise of the judge’s discretion, even if it would also have been permissible and probably advisable to allow the state to make service by alternative means: the judge found that Epson’s correct address was readily obtainable, and that because of the stay South Carolina had adequate time to effect service via the Japanese central authority. The only sour note is the judge’s characterization of service on US counsel as “improper.” I think this has the potential to mislead. Service on US counsel wouldn’t be improper; but that doesn’t mean the judge had to permit it.