Case of the Day: Veroblue Farms v. Wulf

The case of the day is Veroblue Farms USA, Inc. v. Wulf (N.D. Tex. 2020). The question in the case was whether service in the British Virgin Islands via a BVI solicitor was valid under the Hague Service Convention.

The Convention applies in the BVI by virtue of the UK’s declaration that the Convention applies in overseas territories including the BVI. The UK has made a declaration under Article 10 of the Convention, which states that “documents for service through official channels will be accepted in the United Kingdom only by the central or additional authorities and only from judicial, consular or diplomatic officers of other Contracting States.” But in a later clarification, the UK has stated that the declaration “does not preclude any person in another Contracting State who is interested in a judicial proceeding (including his lawyer) from effecting service in the United Kingdom “directly” through a competent person other than a judicial officer or official, e.g., a solicitor.” There’s no question about the propriety of using a solicitor to effect service in the UK itself.

I don’t doubt that the judge in today’s case was right to say that the outcome is the same in the BVI. But I wanted just to point out that both the Article 10 declaration and the clarification speak about the United Kingdom, and at least as I understand how the UK treats overseas possessions, the British Overseas Territories are not part of the United Kingdom. So it would be possible to read the declaration and the clarification to apply to the UK proper but not to the overseas territory. I don’t think that makes sense, but it’s an interesting possibility.

There could be similar questions about US territories. The criminal code defines the term “United States,” as used there, to include all places subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; but in other contexts the term “United States” refers to the 50 states. I raise this just in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Financial Oversight and Management Bd. for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment, LLC, which refused to engage with the latest challenge to the Insular Cases, which established the current framework for thinking about the constitutional status of US territories.

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