HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS ON THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS

This article will provide guidance regarding US Virgin Islands Process Service.  A collection of Caribbean islands and an unincorporated territory of the United States, the United States Virgin Islands are actually geographically a part of the Virgin Islands archipelago. This also includes their neighbor, the British Virgin Islands.

The major islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, as well as more than fifty outlying cays and islets, make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. The residents of the US Virgin Islands,  are U.S. citizens and elect a nonvoting representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, but they do not vote in U.S. national elections.

BACKGROUND

These islands, once part of Denmark-Norway and the independent Kingdom of Denmark, were sold to the United States as part of the Treaty of the Danish West Indies. Five constitutional conventions have taken place since the Virgin Islands Revised Organic Act of 1954 formed the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The majority of the economy is based on tourism and associated industries. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a United States territory that is organized and unincorporated. U.S. Virgin Islanders who live in the territory are not entitled to vote for the president of the United States, even if they were born on these islands. People born in the United States Virgin Islands are citizens of the United States because of federal law. 

Presidential primary elections in the United States Democratic and Republican Parties are open to inhabitants of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement, and the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands are the three largest political parties in the US Virgin Islands. Independent candidates are also a viable option.

The U.S. Virgin Islands elect a representative to Congress for their district at large.  As a result of their election, elected delegates are eligible to vote in committee but are not allowed to vote on the floor. There is currently a Democrat delegate in the House of Representatives, Stacey Plaskett, serving in her first term. There are no US senators in the US Virgin Islands as there are in other territories. 

Each of the Virgin Islands’ three districts has a two-year term for a total of fifteen elected senators—seven each for the districts of St. Croix (the island’s capital), Saint Thomas (the second-largest city), and Saint John (the capital). They may serve an unlimited number of terms.  Since 1970, the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands has had an elected governor every four years. 

THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The United States Virgin Islands has two courts: the Superior Court and Supreme Court. The United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands may file federal criminal proceedings in the District Court of the Virgin Islands. As of January 29, 2007, all appeals from the Superior Court to the Supreme Court must be submitted on or after that date in order to be heard by the Supreme Court. According to the sources cited above, The Appellate Division of the District Court handled appeals filed previous to that date.) The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, situated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hears appeals from federal district courts. According to the sources cited above, Superior and Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor, while District Court judges are appointed by the president of the United States.

The 2019 US Virgin Islands Code, established by the territory’s government, and American common law are both applied by the USVI courts as of 2019. Due to the USVI’s status as an unincorporated territory, the federal district court is an Article IV tribunal, which means it is supervised and controlled by the United States Secretary of the Interior. Except for two 1914 statutes relating to customs and ship charges for St. Thomas and St. John, all Danish legislation has been abolished. 

The legislature of the Virgin Islands established a law in 2004 calling for a fifth constitutional convention, and in 2007 thirty delegates were chosen for that convention. It was on May 26, 2009, that a proposed constitution for the Virgin Islands was ratified by a legislative body. 

Within a few months, a federal case was filed in the Virgin Islands District Court. The case argued that the United States had a legal obligation to provide U.S. Virgin Islanders the right to vote in the United States presidential election and to represent them in Congress. On August 16, 2012, the lawsuit was finally dismissed. No new constitution was drafted in time to meet the October 31 deadline set by the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the United States Virgin Islands.

BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT

Each of the US Virgin Islands has its own administrative district, with St. Croix being separated from the other two by a narrow strait of water that runs across them all. There are three unique statistical entities for each of the three major islands (which are further divided into twenty subdistricts. 

In cases where a defendant is not served U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service within ninety days of the complaint being filed, the court must either dismiss the action without prejudice against the defendant or order that U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service be performed within a certain period. However, if the plaintiff can demonstrate a good reason for the delay, the court must grant an extension of time to serve. U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service

The Superior Court of the Virgin Islands has its own regulations. US Virgin Islands Superior Court rule 27, however, states that summons and process must be served as required by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs have ninety days from the day they submit their lawsuit to serve the defendants in the USVI. 

The ninety-day time limit for U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service must generally be extended if there is sufficient reason for the court to do so before it may dismiss a complaint against a party for failure of service.

DOMESTIC PROCESS SERVICE IN THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS

Generally, courts look at certain elements when assessing whether or not someone has a reasonable belief that they should be allowed to provide U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service. These elements include untimely service; whether the plaintiff has sought an extension of time; and whether a statute of limitations bar would prevent a plaintiff’s claim if the case is dismissed.

However, “it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove good reason” in all cases. If sufficient reason is not shown, the court has the authority to extend the deadline for U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service. When U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service is not completed within the ninety-day window, the courts have a different method. When there is no evidence of good reason, the court might dismiss a matter or prolong the time period for U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service.

If there is no ‘good reason’ for why U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service was not performed on time, the court might still grant an extension on a casewise basis.  No benefit would accrue to the defendant in the event of dismissal if they cannot demonstrate that they were hurt by the late delivery of the U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service; in this case, the plaintiff is likely to submit a similar complaint. According to Rule 4, if a court determines that dismissing a complaint would be counterproductive and costly, it may refuse the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service of the Superior Court runs throughout the territory. Thus, service of all U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service shall be made in any part of the territory by the Virgin Islands marshal and probation officer of the Superior Court and such other persons as may be authorized by law to serve such U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service, or such other officers or persons as may be designated by the court. The persons so designated will receive in payment for their services not less than the statutory fees allowed as per U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service.

Where the law, or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, does not specifically require U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service to be served by an officer of the court U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service process may be directed to and served by a disinterested person named therein. The person so authorized will be sworn to the truth of the return in accordance with U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service laws. A certificate of the oath will then be endorsed upon the writ or process by the authority administering the same. When the U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service of a summons, complaint, or subpoena is made for any party by a person specially authorized to do so, fees for such service shall not be recoverable from or taxed against the opposite party in excess of the taxable fees of the Virgin Islands marshal and probation officer of the Superior Court, had such U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service been served by a marshal

HOW IS SERVICE DONE WITH THE HAGUE CONVENTION

The Hague Service Convention, a multilateral convention signed on November 15, 1965, in The Hague, Netherlands, by member nations of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, governs the service of process in civil and commercial cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With it, plaintiffs may now serve papers on overseas parties who are located, functioning, or headquartered with confidence and efficiency. Service of process in civil and commercial cases is covered by the convention’s rules, but criminal cases are not. Also, if the address of the person to be served is unknown, the Convention does not apply.

A signatory to the Hague Service Convention oversees U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service between participating states; the U.S. Virgin Islands are not one of such nations. Letters rogatory are used in the United States Virgin Islands as the official mode of communication. Most nations, whether or not they signed the Hague Service Convention, allow private process servers to serve U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service papers. Informal service tends to be quicker than formal care, although it might take a long time. 

The Hague Service Convention made it easier for parties to serve each other in other contracting nations by establishing a simplified method of U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service. State governments must appoint a central authority to receive U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service requests for assistance under the treaty. Requests for U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service from a court officer who can serve the process in the state of origin may go straight to the state’s centralized government agency. Requests for U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service in the receiving state are handled by the receiving state’s centralized authority, generally via a local court. The central authority provides a certificate of service to the judicial officer who requested it after the U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service has been completed.

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Sources

1. The territory covers 133.73 square kilometers of land. Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas, serves as the territory’s capital.

2. Information about the United States Virgin Islands’ gun restrictions may be found in the Constitution

3. It was on October 21, 1976, that President Gerald Ford signed into law the Public Law 94–584 empowering residents of the United States Virgin Islands to form their own government, which would be automatically accepted if Congress did not act within 60 days.

4. Even yet, the proposed constitution was rejected in June 2009 by Governor John de Jongh Sr. for violating federal law, failing to respect the sovereignty of the United States, and disregarding fundamental civil rights. Members of the Convention were successful in their lawsuit to compel Governor de Jongh to provide the paper to President Obama. At that time, US President Obama sent a report to Congress outlining his administration’s reservations about whether the requested powers exceeded those allowed by the country’s territorial status and restating the objections made by Governor de Jongh. After President Obama signed a resolution requesting that the Fifth Constitutional Convention reconvene in order to explore revisions to address these shortcomings, Congress expressed its disapproval of the proposed constitution.

5. An all-white and segregated US Congress of 1917 was the rationale for denying a majority nonwhite populace the opportunity to vote, it was claimed.

6. U.S. Virgin Islands Process Service must be served on time under Rule 4(m) of Civil Procedure

7. If a party is served, but it is served late, it is unreasonable to insist on strict adherence to the schedule.

8. Summonses, complaints, and subpoenas shall be served in the same manner as summonses are required to be served by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

9. The way services are provided is comparable to how they are in the United States, however the time it takes to complete them is longer.

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