The Upcoming Special Commission Meeting

The Peace Palace with flowers in the springtime

The Special Commission on the practical operation of the 1965 Service, 1970 Evidence and 1980 Access to Justice Conventions will take place from July 2 to 5 in The Hague. I’ll be attending as part of the ITechLaw delegation, along with friend of Letters Blogatory Alex Blumrosen of the Paris bar. The Special Commission is an opportunity for the states that are parties to the Conventions to trade notes on practical issues that have arisen in the operation of the Conventions. The meeting will result in new Conclusions and Recommendations that, one hopes, courts, counsel, and central authorities can use to work towards a shared understanding of what the Convention provides and towards practical solutions to improve the system of cross-border judicial assistance for everyone.

A lot has happened since the last meeting of the Special Commission in 2014. COVID happened, and today we live in a world where many evidentiary hearings and depositions take place via video. In the Evidence Convention context, this opens up a lot of space for more efficient practice, but it also opens up a lot of space for legal issues (e.g., if you are taking a deposition by video, do the rules about obtaining foreign government permission in advance change?) and for experimentation. Of course we had email long before 2014, but with the ever-increasing use of digital means of communications, questions about the use of electronic methods of transmission under the Service Convention, both between authorities and between an authority and the ultimate recipient of judicial documents, has been litigated in many contexts. There are many other interesting points that I am sure will be discussed.

And then there are the perennial problems, which probably will be discussed but which will almost certainly not be resolved. These include the problem of certain states refusing to execute requests emanating from certain other states, the reluctance of some states to apply specially requested procedures in the taking of evidence when there is no real bar, and the problem of speed, the time from receipt of a letter of request to execution.

The meeting will, I’m sure, be interesting and informative. I will not be reporting live on the discussions (I learnt my lesson about that in 2014!), but I will post some thoughts after the meeting concludes, and I will make sure to point you to the Conclusions and Recommendations once they are published. If there are issues or questions that are of particular interest to you, please let me know in the comments!

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