The case of the day is Ledroit Law v. Kim (Colo. Ct. App. 2015). Snell & Wilmer, an Arizona law firm with offices in Colorado, represented two Ontario companies in a civil case in the District of Colorado. At the same time, Ledroit Law, an Ontario law firm, represented one of the Canadian companies in related proceedings in Canada. Eugene Kim was a first-year associate at Snell & Wilmer at the time.
According to Snell & Wilmer and Kim, their clients instructed Snell & Wilmer to have Ledroit serve subpoenas in Ontario relating to their case in Colorado. But Ledroit sent Snell & Wilmer a bill for $15,000, claiming that Snell & Wilmer had retained Ledroit to provide legal services. Nonsense, said Snell & Wilmer—the two firms’ mutual client had instructed S&W to pass the task of serving the subpoenas on to Ledroit, so the client was liable for the bill.
Ledroit filed an action in the Ontario Superior Court against Snell & Wilmer and Kim. They served process by mail. The Ontario court “issued an assessment” against Snell & Wilmer and Kim in the amount of $15,829.99. Ledroit brought an action in Colorado for recognition and enforcement under the UEFJA.
Before turning to the merits, a short comment on the karmic implications of the claim. First, it is very bad karma to sue the first-year associate individually. Second, maybe there is more to the case than is apparent from the court’s recitation of the facts, but from the karmic perspective charging $15,000 to serve a subpoena is also a poor idea. Third, it is bad karma to sue your co-counsel. I am using the word karma in a purely secular sense as shorthand for “doing what is right as a member of the community of lawyers, both for the sake of your own reputation among your colleagues and for the sake of doing the right thing.”
Okay, now to the merits. The Colorado trial court at first entered an order domesticating the Canadian judgment under the UEFJA, but the defendants successfully moved to vacate. The court correctly granted the motion, as the UEFJA applies to sister-state judgments, not to foreign country judgments. The court held that it would consider the proceeding as one arising under the UFCMJRA. The defendants argued that the judgment was void for want of personal jurisdiction. The trial court recognized the judgment, and Snell & Wilmer and Kim appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed. it held that the Ontario court had lacked personal jurisdiction because under the applicable procedural rule there, service had to be made either by use of the central authority under the Hague Service Convention or else “in a manner that is permitted by the Convention and that would be permitted by these rules if the document were being served in Ontario.” Service by mail, of course, is permitted in the United States under the Convention. But the court held that under Ontario law, service by mail requires an acknowledgment of receipt card, which Ledroit did not use. Ledroit cited various other provisions of Ontario procedural law, none of which were availing, according to the court.
It’s difficult to feel sympathy for someone who has accumulated such a karmic deficit, which is, after all, the whole point of striving for karmic correctness.