Washington International Law Journal


When a potential Russian defendant is not present and cannot be served within the United States, U.S. litigants may be faced with the necessity of carrying out service of process in Russia. If the suit is brought in a U.S. district court, Rule 4(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will govern service of process. Although Rule 4(f) provides a number of options for service of process abroad, only two of these options can be used to serve process in Russia. First, service may be done through a letter of request. In fact, Russian law requires foreign service of process to arrive in Russia only by means of letters of request through diplomatic channels. Despite delays caused by the cumbersome procedure for passing letters of request to the appropriate court, experience shows that it can be done. Second, U.S. plaintiffs can ask a federal court to direct service in Russia by other means, which are open to the discretion of the court. This method is highly useful if the defendant has assets in the United States and subsequent enforcement of the judgment in Russia will not be required. If, however, enforcement is necessary, service by means of a letter of request is a better alternative because Russian courts can refuse to enforce a judgment where service did not comply with Russian law.

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