A Mistranslation of the Highest Order
We’ve blogged about the importance of legal translation services for international service of process (ISOP) in general, and the role of English to Spanish legal translation services for international service of process in Spanish-speaking countries. Today’s case brings us to plaintiffs from Arizona who attempted to effect service on defendants in Mexico, via postal channels and email. The case was brought in the Arizona Superior Court and the defendants made a limited appearance arguing that the case should be dismissed based on improper service, under the Hague Service Convention, which governs service on foreign defendants. The question in front of the Court was whether such service was proper under the Hague Service Convention. The name of the case is Cardona v. Kreamer, and it was heard by the Arizona Supreme Court. The Court ultimately ended up ruling that service by such means was invalid, as per the Hague Service Convention.
The Hague Service Convention provides guidelines for affecting service on defendants in a foreign country. Mexico, although not an original signatory to the convention did accede to it in 1999. The convention requires each signatory state to establish a central authority, which is responsible for affecting service as per the request of a foreign based plaintiff. In other words, a person in Country A can reach out to the designated central authority in Country B to serve the Summons and Complaint on a defendant. The Hague Service Convention also allows for alternative methods of service. Specifically, Article 8 of the Convention allows service through a state’s diplomatic or consular agents.
Article 8 reads:
Each Contracting State shall be free to effect service of judicial documents upon persons abroad, without application of any compulsion, directly through its diplomatic or consular agents. Any State may declare that it is opposed to such service within its territory, unless the document is to be served upon a national of the State in which the documents originate.
And Article 10 of the Convention allows judicial documents to be sent directly to the person in a foreign territory, by mail or through personal service. It reads:
Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with a) the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad,
b) the freedom of judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of origin to effect service of judicial documents directly through the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of destination,
c) the freedom of any person interested in a judicial proceeding to effect service of judicial documents directly through the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of destination.
When Mexico acceded to the Convention it opted out of the alternative methods of service set out within the Convention in Article 8 and Article 10.
This position was laid out in an instrument of accession issued by Mexico and provided to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is in charge of handling accession to the Hague Service Convention. Therefore, service through Mexico’s central authority- Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs- is the only way to effect service in Mexico, by a foreign based plaintiff.
It all sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you want to serve a defendant in Mexico reach out to Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, as we will see this was far from simple.
Spanish to English Mistranslation
When Mexico acceded to the Hague Service Convention with its objections to the alternative methods of service set out within the Convention in Article 8 and Article 10, it was asked to translate its position into English and French as a courtesy, by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mexico duly complied by providing a Spanish to English translation, which was seemingly a mistranslation of Mexico’s actual position. Because of a mistranslation it seemed that Mexico only objected to service of documents through diplomatic or consular agents. This led the Courts to conclude that Mexico only objects to service through diplomatic or consular agents, and not through postal channels. However, that was not the case as Mexico had objected to service of process through diplomatic or consular agents, as well through postal channels.
The Court, here, acknowledged that a Spanish to English mistranslation had occurred, as Mexico had objected to alternative means of service under both Article 8 and Article 10. Therefore, service through Mexico’s central authority, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the only way to effect service in Mexico, by a foreign based plaintiff. In reaching its decision the Court held that the translation, which was actually a mistranslation was only a “courteous translation” and should not have been given any weight. Rather the original documents of accession provided by Mexico to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs explain Mexico’s actual position.
Legal Translation Services Can Avert Unnecessary Litigation
This whole scenario begs the question of how could such a mistranslation happen at such a high level? We can only speculate, of course. Nevertheless, this case has an important lesson for us, and it underscores the importance of professional translation and using experienced legal translators. Such a mistranslation, arguably, must have misdirected many plaintiffs regarding proper service in Mexico as well as resulted in unnecessary litigation, such as the case here, on the propriety of service of process to Mexico. Therefore, the best way to avoid such a problem is to use professional legal translation services.
Legal translation service All Language Alliance, Inc. provides professional translations for service of foreign judicial documents in Mexico. Get in touch with us to retain a Spanish deposition interpreter for a video deposition via Zoom, an on-site Spanish deposition interpreter, or a Spanish arbitration interpreter.
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