Case of the Day: Trade Well International v. United Central Bank

Readers, I over-promised on the Goldhaber review: it’s not ready today. Instead …

The case of the day is Trade well International v. United Central Bank (W.D. Wis. 2014). Trade Well, a Pakistani corporation represented by a lawyer named Maurice J. Salem, sued UCB alleging conversion of hotel furnishings. UCB, the owner of the hotel, was in the process of selling the building when Mr. Salem “filed an unlawful lien on the building, ostensibly to preserve Trade Well’s claim (although it in fact had no claim on the hotel itself.” The lien filing interfered with the impending sale. The court sanctioned Salem and revoked his admission to practice pro hac vice. The judge also invited UCB to assert counterclaims, and UCB counterclaimed for a declaratory judgment that the lien was void and for slander of title. Trade Well failed to answer the counterclaim (or, as far as the decision shows, to hire a new lawyer, though Salem, to the judge’s consternation, filed what he called an “amicus brief” opposing UCB’s motion), and UCB sought a default judgment. Salem’s brief argued that service of the counterclaim by mail in Pakistan was improper because it failed to comply with the Hague Service Convention.

Salem’s argument was plainly wrong, because Pakistan has not objected to service by mail under Article 10(a) of the Convention. But the judge didn’t adopt this easy answer. Instead, he claimed that the Convention only applies to service of summonses and complaints under FRCP 4, not to service of other pleadings under FRCP 5. There is some precedent for this view, but I think it is wrong: under Article 1, the Convention applies to service of any “judicial document,” and of course the Convention applies not just to judicial documents but to extrajudicial documents; thus it must be the case that the Convention applies to the service of documents other than initial process.

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