Usually when we talk about electronic means of service of process we are talking about the service of process itself. But in cases where the Hague Service Convention or the Inter-American Convention applies, there is another question: how does one central authority transmit the documents to be served to another central authority? The Conventions themselves are silent on the question.
My colleague Claudia Madrid Martínez recently posted at Cartas Blogatorias about a new treaty, the Medellín Treaty regarding the Electronic Transmission of Requests for International Legal Cooperation between Central Authorities, signed by several Latin American states, Spain, and Portugal that established a preferred but optional method of transmitting documents from one central authority to another electronically. The system will avoid the need to send paper documents through the post and will provide certainty about the fact of receipt and the date of receipt of a request.
The new treaty is useful and will, I hope, lead to greater use of electronic methods of transmission between central authorities and even from applicants or interested persons to central authorities and vice versa. The Conventions are basically silent on this question, and there is no legal bar to the use of electronic methods of transmission here. Whatever the issues about the use of electronic methods to effect service of process, one of the points of the Conventions is to expedite matters by avoiding the need to use the diplomatic channel for transmitting requests. And if we’re interested in expedition, there’s no question that a properly-designed method of electronic transmission is both faster and more easily verifiable than service by post. The treaty has been signed just by a handful of Latin American countries, but there is no reason others could not do something similar, either with or without a treaty.