Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the relationship between ABC Legal and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Judicial Assistance (OIJA)?
A. In order to carry out the service duties for requests submitted pursuant to the Hague Service Convention, the Inter-American Convention, and letters rogatory through diplomatic channels for civil or commercial matters, in 2003, the Department of Justice contracted with a private process server, ABC Legal, to serve documents within the territory of the United States, as well as to transmit service requests abroad pursuant to the Inter-American Convention in U.S. litigation matters. The Department of Justice delegated the ministerial act of serving and transmitting documents to ABC Legal and this delegation permits ABC Legal to accept and transmit requests for service and to also include ABC Legal’s information in Part 3 of Form A, as found in the Annex to the Additional Protocol to the Inter-American Convention. OIJA remains the Central Authority in all other aspects in relation to these Conventions and requests.
Q. What are letters rogatory?
A. Letters rogatory are formal requests from a court in one country to “the appropriate judicial authorities” in another country that can request service of judicial documents. Although statutory authority generally refers to the instrument as “letters rogatory,” the terms “letters rogatory” and “letter of request” are synonymous in actual practice. Letters rogatory are transmitted through diplomatic channels from the requesting authority to the requested authority. Letters rogatory are received and executed by foreign authorities on the basis of comity and reciprocity.
Q. How do I serve documents in the United States?
A. Two methods are available for serving legal documents in the United States: (1) Formal – requests for formal service are made pursuant to the Hague Service Convention, the Additional Protocol to the Inter-American Convention, or letters rogatory; and (2) Informal – informal service can be effected pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the civil procedure rules of the state in which service is to be made. Service must comport with the law of the jurisdiction in which service is to be effected.
Q. How do I serve the United States Government, a United States Government office or department, or a state agency?
A. Requests for service on the United States Government, which includes its departments, agencies, or instrumentalities, should be sent directly to the U.S. Central Authority, the Office of International Judicial Assistance (“OIJA”). There is no fee for service requests designated for the United States Government. Requests for service on the United States Government should be mailed directly to OIJA at U.S. Central Authority, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 14360, Washington, DC 20044 USA. For more information, please see OIJA’s Guidance on Service on the U.S. Government available on OIJA’s website here.
Q. Can requests for service be electronically transmitted to ABC Legal?
Q. What happens if the address provided in the request is incomplete? What happens if the address provided in the request is inaccurate and the defendant no longer lives at that location?
A. ABC Legal will attempt to resolve issues with incomplete or incorrect addresses by finding the closest possible match to the address provided in the request. If, in the course of attempts to serve, it is discovered that the subject or entity can no longer be found at the requested address, ABC Legal provides a complimentary investigation search to locate the subject. If a valid “new” address is identified, ABC Legal will attempt to serve the subject again and will submit an invoice to the requesting authority for another $95.00 USD payment.
Please note that Germany and Vietnam require pre-approval before ABC Legal can attempt to serve at a new address since an additional $95.00 USD payment is required.
Q. If multiple individuals to be served live in the same household, are separate requests with separate payments needed for each individual to be served?
Q. What common mistakes are made in requests that are received by ABC Legal?
A. Requests are frequently rejected because they are not accompanied by the required $95.00 USD fee (if applicable), the appropriate number of copies, missing mandatory forms, and/or missing translations. All requirements of the relevant Convention must be met, or the request will be returned unexecuted.
It is imperative that a contact email and phone number are included with each service request so ABC Legal can attempt to correct any mistakes before rejecting and returning the request unexecuted.
Q. Is ABC Legal’s fee required to be paid in advance?
A. Yes. For requests pursuant to the Hague Service Convention or submitted through diplomatic channels, the $95.00 USD service fee is payable to ABC Legal Services by Cashier’s Check, Money Order, Credit Card, or by Bank Transfer to Wells Fargo Bank, Account 2007107119, Swift Code WFBIUS6, ABA Routing Number 121000248. Proof of payment must be enclosed with the documents so ABC Legal can quickly and easily match the payment with the request for service. Failure to include proof of payment may result in rejection of the request for service.
Q. Is a $95.00 USD fee required for each address at which service is attempted for an individual?
Q. If a request for service is rejected by ABC Legal, is the $95.00 USD fee reimbursed? How?
A. Yes; the method of reimbursement depends on how payment was initially made. If a check was submitted with the request, it is returned with the documents to the requesting authority. All other payments are reserved if corrections can be made to the request or the request is re-submitted. However, if a request cannot be corrected or resubmitted and the fee was paid by a payment method other than a check, a request for reimbursement would have to be made. Please contact ABC Legal for more information.
Q. How many sets of documents must I submit to ABC Legal?
A. This depends on the method of transmission of the request. The Hague Service Convention requires that all documents, including the Mandatory Form, be sent in duplicate. The Inter-American Convention requires that all documents, including the Mandatory Form, be sent in triplicate. Letters rogatory sent via diplomatic channels also require two complete sets of documents.
Q. Are there additional requirements for service on active U.S. service members?
A. While there are no additional requirements, providing identifying and contact information assists ABC Legal in locating subjects currently residing on a military base. This includes information such as date of birth, military identification numbers, social security numbers, and contact information.
Q. How is service effected by ABC Legal?
A. Personal service is the method used in executing all requests. ABC Legal does not serve the legal documents by any other method, even though other methods may be available or permitted under the law of the jurisdiction in which service is to be effected.
Q. Can a person be served electronically?
A. ABC Legal will not serve individuals pursuant to the Convention or letters rogatory electronically, but only through personal service. Electronic service may be a permissible “informal” method of service, if provided for by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the civil procedure rules of the state in which service is to be made.
Q. How long will service of the documents take?
A. ABC Legal is required to complete service of documents for return to the foreign requestor within 30 business days of receipt. In addition, it will accept requests for expedited service, service within seven (7) business days of receipt, without charging an additional fee. Expedited service must be specifically requested; if it is not, service will be completed within 30 business days of receipt. Applicants will be notified if a request for service is taking longer than 30 business days to execute and parties may inquire about the status of a request with ABC Legal at any time.
Q. May I contact ABC Legal for a status update?
A. Yes, you may contact ABC Legal anytime firstname.lastname@example.org or (001) 206-521-9000. Status inquiries will be responded to within 48 hours.
Q. In what languages other than English can ABC Legal communicate with on the phone and over email?
A. Currently ABC Legal is only able to assist Spanish-speaking customers.
Q. Once service is effected, what documents does ABC Legal mail back to the requesting authority?
A. The Certificate of Service applicable to either the Hague Service Convention or the Inter-American Convention, ABC Legal’s own proof of service, and any service related documents still held by ABC Legal.
Q. Does ABC Legal retain any documents after service is effected and the certificate returned or if the request is rejected?
A. ABC Legal does not retain any hard copy documents after service is completed or if the request is rejected. Only documents which were submitted electronically are reserved, as well as electronic copies of the Certificates or proofs of service.
Q. What happens if a person rejects the attempt at service?
A. If the person to be served does not cooperate to the extent that service will not be held valid or the person evades all personal service attempts, ABC will report it as a non-serve and documents will be returned to the requesting authority along with the non-serve certificate explaining the failed attempts at service in detail.
Q. Does ABC Legal accept requests for evidence?
A. No. Requests for evidence in civil or commercial matters should be sent to the Office of International Judicial Assistance (“OIJA”) in Washington, DC. OIJA serves as the Central Authority for the United States pursuant to the Hague Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters. In addition, OIJA handles evidence requests received from non-Convention States through diplomatic channels. Requests for service of legal documents that include a request for evidence will be returned unexecuted by ABC Legal. Service and evidence requests must be handled and submitted separately to the appropriate authorities. For more information on submitting evidence requests, visit OIJA’s website here.
Q. Does ABC Legal execute requests for service in criminal matters?
A. No. ABC Legal, acting on behalf of the U.S. Central Authority, only executes requests for service in civil and commercial matters. Requests for service for criminal proceedings will be returned unexecuted.