The case of the day is Dish Networks LLC v. Reich (S.D. Fla. 2020). Dish Network and Nagrastar LLC sued Robert Reich, alleging that he had illegally broadcast their satellite programming to customers in Belize. They served process via a process server, who personally served the papers on Reich (at least according to his affidavit—Reich claims that the papers were served on his wife, but I will ignore the factual dispute here). Reich moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process.

Belize is a party to the Hague Service Convention,1 but it seems that the plaintiffs did not seek to make service via the Belize central authority (I am not certain of this, though). Rather, they hired a Belize process server. So the first question is, does the Convention permit personal service via a process server? Belize has not objected to service under Article 10 of the Convention. Thus the question is whether, under Article 10(c), the process server was one of “the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of destination,” i.e., whether under Belize law the process server was competent to serve process. The decision is silent on this point and perhaps the court did not recognize that this was the key question.

If we assume that the process server was competent under Belize law, then the question is whether FRCP 4 authorized the method of service, since as we know from Water Splash Article 10 itself does not authorize any method of service but only permits certain methods if they are authorized by the law of the forum. FRCP 4(f)(2)(C)(i) does authorize personal service, but only “unless prohibited by the foreign country’s law.” Again, the decision was silent on what Belize law has to say.

I think the decision is probably correct, because Belize is a common-law jurisdiction. Still, it would be better if courts would apply the right framework to deciding such motions.

  1. The decision calls Belize a “non-party member,” but it probably means a “non-member party.” That is, Belize is a party to the Convention though it is not a member of the Hague Conference.