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.