United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
N. MCFADDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
are eight former employees of a K-12 school, King Abdullah
Academy, in Herndon, Virginia, who have sued the school and
the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (collectively, the
“Defendants”) for employment discrimination on
the basis of race, religion or national origin under the D.C.
Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et
seq.; Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42
U.S.C. § 1981; and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Before the
Court now is the Embassy's Motion to Quash for
Insufficient Service of Process. For the reasons below, the
Court will grant the motion and allow the former employees
another attempt to effect proper service.
eight former employees filed this suit against the Defendants
in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia in
December 2018. See Compl., ECF No. 1-1 at
Despite “significant time and resources dedicated to
ensuring compliance with the proper procedures required to
correctly serve process” on the Embassy of the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia, the former employees experienced some
difficulty “navigating service of process on an entity
that is an extension of a sovereign nation.” Pl.'s
Mot. for Extension of Time ¶ 5, ECF No. 1-1 at 15-16. In
February 2019, the Plaintiffs sought and obtained from the
Superior Court an extension of time to serve process. Order
Granting Mot., ECF No. 1-1 at 21-22. Using DHL's
certified mail services, the Plaintiffs ultimately succeeded
in delivering copies of the Summons, Complaint, and Notice of
Suit to the Head of the Foreign Ministry for the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia in Riyadh in April. See Proof of
Delivery, ECF No. 1-1 at 31.
Embassy removed this action here under 28 U.S.C. §§
1330, 1441 and 1446, because the Embassy is a foreign state
and subject to the District Court's original jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1330(a). Def. Notice of Removal, ECF
Embassy also moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) to quash the
Complaint for failure to meet the service requirements of the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. §
1602, et seq. Def. Mot. to Quash (“Def.
Mot.”), ECF No. 5.
1608(a) of the FSIA governs service of process “on a
foreign state or political subdivision of a foreign
state.” 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a); Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(j)(1).
The Act provides a list of four methods for effecting
service, to be followed in seriatim. 28 U.S.C. §
1608(a); Rep. of Sudan v. Harrison, 139 S.Ct. 1048,
1054 (2019). The first is “by delivery of a copy of the
summons and complaint in accordance with any special
arrangement for service between the plaintiff and the foreign
state or political subdivision.” 28 U.S.C. §
1608(a)(1). The second, “by delivery of a copy of the
summons and complaint in accordance with an applicable
international convention on service of judicial
documents.” Id. § 1608(a)(2). Third,
by sending a copy of the summons and complaint and a notice
of suit, together with a translation of each into the
official language of the foreign state, by any form of mail
requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and dispatched by
the clerk of the court to the head of the ministry of foreign
affairs of the foreign state concerned. . . .
Id. § 1608(a)(3). And fourth, if the first
three methods fail, through the Department of State's
diplomatic channels. Id. § 1608(a)(4). Both
parties agree that neither § 1608(a)(1) nor (2) were
available, and thus the requirements of § 1608(a)(3)
of process on a foreign state must strictly comply with the
statutory requirements of § 1608(a). Transaero, Inc.
v. La Fuerza Aerea Boliviana, 30 F.3d 148, 154 (D.C.
Cir. 1994). And while the former employees are responsible
for such service, the FSIA “confers upon the district
court responsibilities with regard to the sensitive task of
service of process on a foreign government.” Barot
v. Embassy of the Rep. of Zambia, 785 F.3d 26 (D.C. Cir.
2015). Specifically, the clerk of the court must be
the one to “address and dispatch” the
documents “to the head of the ministry of foreign
affairs of the foreign state concerned.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1608(a)(3) (emphasis added); see Abur v. Rep. of
Sudan, 437 F.Supp.2d 166, 173 (D.D.C. 2006) (finding
requirements § 1608(a)(3) satisfied when the clerk
dispatched the documents using DHL); de Sousa v. Embassy
of Rep. of Angola, 229 F.Supp.3d 23, 28 (D.D.C. 2017)
(requirement satisfied when the clerk of the court sent the
documents by FedEx).
because of the sensitive nature of directly serving a foreign
state, courts require strict compliance “even when the
equities of a particular case may seem to point in [favor of
the plaintiff].” Harrison, 139 S.Ct. at 1062.
former employees argue that they gave the Embassy notice of
the lawsuit by “substantially complying” with the
statutory requirements. Pl.'s Opp'n. to Def.'s
Mot. to Quash (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) ¶ 10,
ECF No. 14. And, indeed, they have produced a receipt showing
delivery to the Head of the Foreign Ministry for the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. See Proof of Delivery.
The courts have made clear, however, ...