Case of the Day: Barot v. Embassy of Zambia

The case of the day is Barot v. Embassy of the Republic of Zambia (D.D.C. 2014). Doris Balot, a former employee of the Embassy of Zambia, sued, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the DC Wage Payment and Collection Law. The Embassy moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process.

Barot was proceeding in forma pauperis, and so pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the marshal “aided plaintiff in her attempt to perfect service on defendant, albeit unsuccessfully.” This is an improvement on Beckely v. Raith, the case in which the judge improperly refused to let the marshal aid a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis to make service.The decision doesn’t explain what exactly the marshal tried to do. Barot then attempted to effect service on her own. She requested the clerk to effect service under 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(3). The clerk did so, but he addressed the documents to “Embassy of Zambia, P.O. Box 50069, Lusaka City, Zambia.” The statute requires the documents to be addressed to the “head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned.” Because plaintiffs must strictly comply with § 1608(a), the judge dismissed the case.

The case is correctly decided. I have to say, though, that it’s disappointing that the marshal’s service couldn’t effect service. Service on a foreign state sounds like it should be one of the most difficult service of process problems, but in fact, serving a foreign state can be pretty straightforward, at least if, as in this case, it’s clear which prong of § 1608(a) is the proper prong for making service. There should be a manual that explains the mechanics of making service on a foreign state. This is particularly important because the cases require strict compliance with the statute.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

32 thoughts on “Case of the Day: Barot v. Embassy of Zambia

  1. The clerk of the court is the culprit in this case because he wrote the wrong addressee instead of writing Head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lusaka, for what reason he wrote Embassy of Zambia which should not be the case because Zambia doesn’t have an embassy in her own country, particularly Lusaka, but a Foreign Ministry in charge of all embassies abroad.

    In addition in the first attempt, it was the judge who made a mistake in sending the complaint to the Zambian embassy in DC.

    In the second attempt, the clerk of the Court for some reason notified the plaintiff’s lawyer that the service has not yet been made and in the third attempt, The greatest and deadly mistake/negligence was committed by writing the wrong addressee.

    1. The dhl waybill label reads: Contact Min. Foreign Affairs of Embassy of Zambia. If you would consult a dictionary, Contact means/refers to a person therefore, Min. Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Zambia, refers/connotes to MINISTER. The label has no enough space for the whole addressee name Head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Zambia.
      The computer generated dhl label reads a part of the whole addressee name on the right side of the label the name Contact (a person) Min Foreign Affairs and the computer automatically moved the other portion of the addressee name Embassy of Zambia that was cut from the Min. of Foreign Affairs to the left side of the label next to the word To.

  2. From the very start there is dubious activity done in connection with this case. Someone in the Court kept/hid the original complaint and was only submitted for filing/docketing on April 9, 2013 to make it appear that it was filed late. The original complaint had two dates stamped, one in March the other in April.

    1. Thank you, Ms. Barot, for your comments. I think you are right that the clerk made an error here, although I note that you are represented by counsel and ultimately it is the plaintiff’s responsibility, not the court’s, to effect service of process. As to your assertion of intentional wrongdoing in the clerk’s office, I see no evidence of that. If you have a concern about the date of receipt versus the date of docketing, you may want to discuss it with your lawyer.

  3. Dear Sir,

    Have you seen the separate Court’s Order in connection with this case. If so what is your opinion/comments/suggestions.

      1. Dear Atty.

        In support to my allegations of wrong doings, I present the following:

        September 28, 2012 – EEOC Determination
        December. 21, 2012- EEOC’s date of Notice to Sue
        March 20, 2013 – deadline for filing our complaint
        March 19, 2013 – Plaintiff filed complaint in court.
        April 9, 2013 – Court’s record showed that the complaint was filed.
        From March 19, 2013 to April 8, 2013, a total of 20 days, someone in the court kept and hid the complaint.

        Following the EEOC’s 90-day period to file complaint, the statute of limitations has already expired. But as a gesture of washing hands, the court allowed the case to continue.

        Analyzing the circumstances/events from Attempts I to III the inside job cooking is evident and the rest is HISTORY.

        1. In the Court’s Memorandum Opinion, under Background page 3,par. 1, line 3, the date of filing of the original case was not specified. Instead, it states “Plaintiff filed the original complaint giving rise to this case in the spring of 2013”.

          This is a complete cover up.
          This is INCORRECT (a lie) because the original complaint was filed on March 19, 2013 the day Spring has not yet started. NOT April 9, 2013 as appearing in the records of this case.

          This is an interesting case worthy of analysis. Hope others would be outspoken too to voice their opinions for justice sake.

          1. It seems most likely to me that the delay in docketing was on account of the motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The judge needed to grant the motion before the case could be docketed without prepayment of the fee. One thing that is clear: it’s probably not wise to wait to the very last day to sue, particularly if service of process may pose an issue (as in a FSIA case)!

            1. Dear Atty.

              Thank you for the clarification. I am a cancer survivor and I can overcome my frustrations. There is law for the rich and law for paupers but at the end I believed that the Law of KARMA will prevail.

              Dismissal of this complaint cannot deny that Zambia Embassy is GUILTY of the offense.

              God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
              The COURAGE to change the things I can
              And to know the difference …

              1. Ms. Barot, you are right to say that there is an access to justice problem in the United States, as in many other countries. It is difficult for most people to afford good legal counsel.

                1. Dear Atty.

                  I am now convinced that you:are 100 percent correct that it is hard to get a good/knowledgeable lawyer with conviction. I am disappointed as to how my case was handled.

  4. Dear Atty.

    I am so sorry for double postings. I don’t know what I have done. Please tell me what to do to erase them. Hoping for your kind understanding. Happy Easter …

  5. Dear Atty.

    Thank you so much for your frankness. My lawyer is the best and she did her best. We are just victims of wrongdoers.

  6. Dear Atty.

    I admired you for being straightforward. My counsel is best, she did everything under the circumstances. I have high regard for her. We are only victims of wrongdoers.

  7. I am not sad for what happened. The world, particularly Zambia had known what the 04 conniving diplomats namely: then Ambassador Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika; Minister Counsellor Alfred Chioza; First Secretary (A) Frank Mbewe and First Secretary (Pol. & Adm.) Chembo Felix Mbula did. They brought insult to themselves and SHAME to Zambia.

  8. I still cannot comprehend the reason why the wrong addressee was written on the DHL waybill while in fact in another case that we filed against Zambia embassy in the DC Superior Court, the same was dismissed for service issue. That is why we are very careful not to commit the same mistake.

    Fate is this your way of making a joke?

  9. Whoever wrote the wrong addressee ADDS INSULT TO INJURY and in due time karma will get him/her.

  10. I got copy of the DHL shipment label that reads:

    To: Embassy of Zambia. Contact:
    P.OF. Box 50069. Min. Foreign Affairs
    260 211 252666
    LUSAKA CITY
    Zambia

    This is how the label appears because when the contact name was typed the
    Embassy of Zambia automatically went on the left side of the word ‘to’ thus it might be the only addressee that caught the attention of the court..

  11. Correction:

    I typed what exactly appeared on the label but when I hit “enter” to post my comment, what appeared on the above comment was different.

    Hereunder is the correct addressee

    Contact
    Min. Foreign Affairs of Embassy of Zambia
    260211 252666
    P.O Box 50069
    LUSAKA CITY
    Zambia

  12. “Min” refers to Minister stated in our May 19, 2014 Memo in support of Motion for Reconsideration. (Page 2, Lines 3-12) .

  13. Dear Atty,

    I am wondering because my motion to proceed in forma pauper was granted by Judge E. Boasberg and then the case was handled and decided by Judge Amy Berman Jackson

    For your clarification please. Thank you

  14. The Oral Argument in connection with my appeal has been heard this afternoon. The Decision of the Court of Appeals would be worth waiting for. I am confident that Justice would be served.

  15. The Oral Argument for
    Dolores Barot v. Embassy of Zambia
    Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
    Date Argued: March 16th, 2015
    Duration: 33:24
    Docket Number: 14-7081
    Judges: Rogers, Millett, Sentelle

    The Oral argument is now in the Internet. If you are interested to hear just google Barot v. Embassy of Zambia and you can download it. Thank you so much.

  16. Dear Atty. I WON my appeal. See Opinion below:

    Opinion for the Court by Circuit Judge ROGERS.
    ROGERS, Circuit Judge:
    Dolores Barot appeals the dismissal of her complaint for failure to effect service of process as required under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(3). That act confers upon the district court responsibilities with regard to the sensitive task of service of process on a foreign government, yet in this case the district court itself was responsible for a substantial portion of the mistakes in service. Because Barot’s attempts at service came so close to strict compliance with the Act as to demonstrate a good faith effort at timely compliance amidst the sometimes confusing directions from the district court, we conclude, in view of the resulting prejudice to Barot and the absence of any relevant prejudice to the Embassy of Zambia of allowing a further effort at service, that dismissal was too extreme a remedy. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case for the district court to permit Barot to effect service in compliance with section 1608(a)(3).

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