Delegates to a recent The Hague Commission on International Law conference found in favor of U.S. legal representatives there, who argued that U.S. attorneys were being unfairly stymied in their efforts to collect evidence and serve lawsuits abroad, according to Glenn Hendrix, an attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Atlanta.

            Mr. Hendrix, who serves as the American Bar Association‘s litigation chair, was one of three delegates to represent the United States at the Hague Commission seminar on private international law, held in early November in the Netherlands.

            The Hague conference, an inter-governmental organization comprised of 62 member states, drafts multilateral treaties related to private international law, including regulations for lawyers working to gather legal information or serve lawsuits in another country.

            In recent years, said Mr. Hendrix, requests by U.S. attorneys for detailed testimony from citizens of another country have been rejected with increasing frequency by international authorities that claim the inquiries are too broad.           

            The trend can be partially attributed to the fact that very few other countries have a pre-trial discovery period that requires as lengthy or painstaking a collection of facts as the U.S. legal system, he explained.

            U.S. lawyers have also had difficulty getting lawsuits asking for punitive damages in the billions of dollars served in some countries because the cases, due to the potential monetary awards, are interpreted as criminal matters not governed by the commission’s service convention treaty, said Mr. Hendrix.

            He cited the problems U.S. music publishers have had in serving German media giant Bertelsmann AG, which they are suing for its investment in Napster, a company providing online file sharing software that allows users to download free audio and video files.      

            In both instances, conference delegates agreed by consensus that the language of the treaties in question does not support the increasingly restrictive interpretations to which American requests for service and testimony were often subjected, said Mr. Hendrix.

            He said the conference findings are to be compiled into a practice handbook for distribution worldwide, but added that it would likely take time for the broader treaty interpretations agreed upon at the seminar to take root in practice.

            For additional information, contact Mr. Hendrix at (404) 873-8500.