March 22, 2017
TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FOURTEENTH DISTRICT
Water Splash sued respondent Menon, a former employee, in a
Texas state court, alleging that she had begun working for
a competitor while still employed by Water Splash. Because
Menon resided in Canada, Water Splash obtained permission
to effect service by mail. After Menon declined to answer
or otherwise enter an appearance, the trial court issued a
default judgment for Water Splash. That court subsequently
denied Menon's motion to set aside the judgment on the
ground that she had not been properly served. On appeal,
Menon argued that service by mail does not comport with the
requirements of the Convention on the Service Abroad of
Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and
Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention), which seeks
to simplify, standardize, and generally improve the process
of serving documents abroad, specifying certain approved
methods of service and preempting "inconsistent
methods of service" wherever it applies,
Volkswagenwerk Aktieng-esellschaft v. Schlunk, 486
U.S. 694, 699. The Texas Court of Appeals agreed with
Menon, holding that the Convention prohibited service of
process by mail. Article 10, the provision at issue,
consists of Articles 10(b) and 10(c), which plainly address
permissible methods of "service, " and Article
10(a), which provides that the Convention will not
interfere with "the freedom to send judicial
documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad,
" but does not expressly refer to "service."
The Hague Service Convention does not prohibit service of
process by mail. Pp. 4-12.
This Court begins its analysis by looking to the
treaty's text and the context in which its words are
used. See Schlunk, 486 U.S., at 699. The key word
in Article 10(a)-"send"-is a broad term, and
there is no apparent reason why it would exclude the
transmission of documents for the purpose of service. The
structure of the Convention strongly counsels against such
an exclusion. The Convention's preamble and Article 1
limit the scope of the Convention to service of documents
abroad, and its full title includes the phrase
"Service Abroad." This Court has also held that
the scope of the Convention is limited to service of
documents. Id., at 701. It would thus be quite
strange if Article 10(a)-apparently alone among the
Convention's provisions-concerned something other than
service of documents. Indeed, such a reading would render
Article 10(a) superfluous. Article 10's function is to
ensure that, generally, the Convention "shall not
interfere" with the activities described in 10(a),
10(b), and 10(c). But since Article 1 already
"eliminates [the] possibility" that the
Convention would apply to any communications that "do
not culminate in service, " id., at 701, in
order for Article 10(a) to do any work, it must
pertain to sending documents for the purposes of service.
Menon's attempt to avoid this superfluity problem by
suggesting that Article 10(a) applies not to service of
process but only to the service of "post-answer
judicial documents" lacks any plausible textual
footing in Article 10. If the drafters wished to limit
Article 10(a) to a particular subset of documents, they
could have said so-as they did, e.g., in Article
15, which refers to "a writ of summons or an
equivalent document." Instead, Article 10(a) uses the
term "judicial documents"- the same term featured
in 10(b) and 10(c). And the ordinary meaning of the word
"send" is broad enough to cover the transmission
of any judicial documents. Accordingly, the text
and structure of the Convention indicate that Article 10(a)
encompasses service by mail. Pp. 4-6.
The main counterargument-that Article 10(a)'s phrase
"send judicial documents" should mean something
different than the phrase "effect service of judicial
documents" in Article 10(b) and Article 10(c)-is
unpersuasive. First, it must contend with the compelling
structural considerations strongly suggesting that Article
10(a) pertains to service of documents. Second, reading the
word "send" as a broad concept that includes, but
is not limited to, service is probably more
plausible than interpreting the word to exclude service,
and it does not create the same superfluity problem. Third,
the French version of the Convention, which is
"equally authentic" to the English version,
Schlunk, supra, at 699, uses the word
"adresser, " which has consistently been
understood to mean service or notice. At best, Menon's
argument creates an ambiguity as to Article 10(a)'s
meaning. The Court thus turns to additional tools of treaty
interpretation, which comfortably resolve any lingering
ambiguity in Water Splash's favor. Pp. 7-8.
extratextual sources are especially helpful in ascertaining
Article 10(a)'s meaning. First, the Convention's
drafting history strongly suggests that the drafters
understood that service by postal channels was permissible.
Second, in the half-century since the Convention was
adopted, the Executive Branch has consistently maintained
that the Hague Service Convention allows service by mail.
Finally, other signatories to the Convention have
consistently adopted Water Splash's view. Pp. 8-12.
fact that Article 10(a) encompasses service by mail does
not mean that it affirmatively authorizes such service.
Rather, service by mail is permissible if the receiving
state has not objected to service by mail and if such
service is authorized under otherwise-applicable law.
Because the Court of Appeals concluded that the Convention
prohibited service by mail, it did not consider whether
Texas law authorizes the methods of service used by Water
Splash. That and any other remaining issues are left to be
considered on remand to the extent they are properly
preserved. P. 12. 472 S.W.3d 28, vacated and remanded.
J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other
Members joined, except GORSUCH, J., who took no part in the
consideration or decision of the case.
case concerns the scope of the Convention on the Service
Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and
Commercial Matters, Nov. 15, 1965 (Hague Service Convention),
20 U.S. T. 361, T. I. A. S. No. 6638. The purpose of that
multilateral treaty is to simplify, standardize, and
generally improve the process of serving documents abroad.
Preamble, ibid.; see Volkswagenwerk
Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694, 698 (1988).
To that end, the Hague Service Convention specifies certain
approved methods of service and "pre-empts inconsistent
methods of service" wherever it applies. Id.,
at 699. Today we address a question that has divided the
lower courts: whether the Convention prohibits service by
mail. We hold that it does not.
Water Splash is a corporation that produces aquatic
playground systems. Respondent Menon is a former employee of
Water Splash. In 2013, Water Splash sued Menon in state court
in Texas, alleging that she had begun working for a
competitor while still employed by Water Splash. 472 S.W.3d
28, 30 (Tex. App. 2015). Water Splash asserted several causes
of action, including unfair competition, conversion, and
tortious interference with business relations. Because Menon
resided in Canada, Water Splash sought and obtained
permission to effect service by mail. Ibid. After
Menon declined to answer or otherwise enter an appearance,
the trial court issued a default judgment in favor of Water
Splash. Menon moved to set aside the judgment on the ground
that she had not been properly served, but the trial court
denied the motion. Ibid.
appealed, arguing that service by mail does not "comport
with the requirements of the Hague Service Convention."
Ibid. The Texas Court of Appeals majority sided with
Menon and held that the Convention prohibits service of
process by mail. Id., at 32. Justice Christopher
dissented. Id., at 34. The Court of Appeals declined
to review the matter en banc, App. 95-96, and the Texas
Supreme Court denied discretionary review, id., at
disagreement between the panel majority and Justice
Christopher tracks a broader conflict among courts as to
whether the Convention permits service through postal
channels. Compare, e.g., Bankston v. Toyota Motor
Corp., 889 F.2d 172, 173-174 (CA8 1989) (holding that
the Convention prohibits service by mail), and Nuovo
Pignone, SpA v. Storman Asia M/V, 310 F.3d 374, 385 (CA5
2002) (same), with, e.g., Brockmeyer v. May, 383
F.3d 798, 802 (CA9 2004) (holding that the Convention allows
service by mail), and Ackermann v. Levine, 788 F.2d
830, 838-840 (CA2 1986) (same). We granted certiorari to
resolve that conflict. 580 U.S. ___ (2016).
"primary innovation" of the Hague Service
Convention-set out in Articles 2-7-is that it "requires
each state to establish a central authority to receive
requests for service of documents from other countries."
Schlunk, supra, at 698. When a central authority
receives an appropriate request, it must serve the documents
or arrange for their service, Art. 5, and then provide a
certificate of service, Art. 6.
a request to a central authority is not, however, the only
method of service approved by the Convention. For example,
Article 8 permits service through diplomatic and consular
agents; Article 11 provides that any two states can agree to
methods of service not otherwise specified in the Convention;
and Article 19 clarifies that the Convention does not preempt
any internal laws of its signatories that permit service from
abroad via methods not otherwise allowed by the Convention.
issue in this case is Article 10 of the Convention, the
English text of which reads as follows:
"Provided the State of destination does not object, the
present Convention shall not ...