Case of the Day: Minor v. Juarez

The case of the day is Minor v. Juarez (D.N.M. 2021). David Minor sued Luis Alberto Ramirez Juarez for negligence on account of an automobile accident in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Minor sued in the state court in El Paso Texas. Ramirez, who resided in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, removed the case to the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, which transferred the case to the District of New Mexico. Minor brought a motion for appointment of a vendor his lawyer had hired to handle service of process in Mexico as a special process server for purposes of serving process in Mexico.

The court granted the motion in part. The judge correctly explained that no court order is required. Under the HCCH 1965 Service Convention, the requesting state determines, under its own law, who is a competent authority to transmit a letter of request. At least in the federal courts, any adult person other than a party is competent to serve process and thus is competent to transmit the letter of request to the foreign authority. And so the court denied the motion for an order but did declare that the vendor is indeed competent under US law to transmit the request.

Note that the situation may be different in state courts. Here in Massachusetts, for instance, in general, only a sheriff is competent to serve process, and so if you are relying on the provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure to decide who is and is not competent, it might be necessary for the court to appoint a special process server if the plaintiff does not want to have the sheriff transmit the request. And there is another solution, too—my preferred solution, in fact. The United States has informed the Hague Conference that “any court official, any attorney, or any other person or entity authorized by the rules of the court” is competent under US law. Therefore, I like to have the clerk sign and seal the request for service, even if I actually handle the mailing. This is clearly permissible, and it also can help in some countries unfamiliar with our lax attitude towards service to see official signatures and seals.

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