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Introducing the New Multi-jurisdiction Service of Process Report

This is a guest post by Kayahan Cantekin, a foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Kayahan previously blogged about Introducing the New Civil Education Models Report.

We’re proud to announce that our new multi-jurisdiction report on rules governing the service of process is now available on law.gov. The report includes surveys of 18 non-U.S. jurisdictions and focuses on rules regarding two aspects of service of process, namely, whether or not service can be made via online means, and the methods for serving parties located abroad. The jurisdictions surveyed are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, England and Wales, European Union, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russian Federation, South Korea, and Turkey. The report includes civil law, common law, and mixed system jurisdictions, thus providing a valuable comparative look into how countries across different legal traditions adapt their civil procedure rules to developments in communication technology.

Rules Regarding Electronic Service of Process

“Service of process” is the first formal notification made to a party that a lawsuit has been filed against it. This first notification is critical for enabling a party to defend itself. The availability of more flexible means for effectuating service, however, may also have a great impact on the plaintiffs’ ability to access justice.

As a result, the availability of online technologies, such as e-mail, social media, and online messaging applications for service of process raises questions about the best ways to safeguard the preservation of due process rights of all litigants. Our new report demonstrates the types of protections that are employed in the civil procedure laws of the surveyed jurisdictions, and explore the trends in legislation and judicial practice regarding the use of electronic means of service.

Map created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky.

Map created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky.

Our report found that a majority of the surveyed jurisdictions that allow electronic service of process require the explicit or implicit consent of the recipient, if the recipient is not a public entity, for the service to be valid.

Jurisdictions appear to differ in their approaches to electronic service in accordance with their legal tradition: for example, in many of the surveyed jurisdictions belonging to the civil law tradition, electronic service is allowed only through regulated electronic transmission systems that are administered by public entities. On the other hand, in the majority of the common law jurisdictions that were surveyed, electronic service was allowed to be made by parties through regular electronic addresses, although generally not as primary method of service but under substituted service rules (rules under which documents can be served indirectly to a party by giving them to a pre-authorized person or dropping them at a certain location when the documents cannot be served directly).

Service via social media platforms is permitted in several of the surveyed jurisdictions as a method of substituted service. Also, in some jurisdictions, online messaging applications other than email appear to be allowed as alternative channels for electronic service. 

Rules Regarding International Service

The report also provides a comprehensive overview of the rules regarding international service of process in the surveyed jurisdictions. All jurisdictions covered in the report, with the exception of New Zealand, are party to the Hague Service Convention, but have specific rules governing the procedure by which service will be effectuated on a person located abroad.

We invite you to review our report. You can also browse the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports pages for additional reports from the Law Library. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

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