The term “letters rogatory” refers to a formal request by one court to a foreign court for obtaining of information from a specified person or entity within the jurisdiction of that foreign court.

Reference Desk

John Deere Ltd. v. Sperry Corp., 754 F.2d 132 (1985).

Letters rogatory are formal written requests, sent by a court in which an action is pending to a court or judge of a foreign country, asking that the testimony of a witness resident within the foreign jurisdiction be taken and transmitted for use in the court where the action is pending. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 28.

The Signe, 37 F. Supp. 819 (E.D. La. 1941).

Letters rogatory are the medium, in effect, whereby one country, speaking through one of its courts, requests another country, acting through its own courts and by methods of court procedure peculiar thereto and entirely within the latter’s control, to assist the administration of justice in the former country; such request being made, and being usually granted, by reason of the comity existing between nations in ordinary peaceful times.

The country so requesting this aid for and on behalf of the orderly administration and dispensing of justice in its courts, first conveys, in its letters rogatory, the official greetings of its governing head to the court, or courts, in the foreign country wherein resides a witness whose testimony it is sought to take by means of the good offices of said court, or courts, and the sustaining authority of the laws therein administered concerning the taking of evidence under letters rogatory. 24 Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, “Letters Rogatory”, pp. 704, 705; Black’s Law Dictionary, 3d Edition, p. 1092.

For usual form of letters rogatory, see Benedict on Admiralty, 6th Edition-Knauth, § 400, p. 99; and form used in this court.

821*821 “By the law of nations”, reads Benedict on Admiralty, § 400, p. 92, “the courts of justice of different countries are bound mutually to aid and assist each other for the furtherance of justice.” To secure such aid and assistance, letters rogatory are resorted to (the author continues), and the request to take the desired testimony which is thereby made of the court, or courts, in the foreign country is justified by the offer to do the like, should request therefor ever be made in a similar case, by such foreign court, under authority of the national laws which govern it.

In this case, here at issue, the form of letters rogatory submitted by the applicants therefor is made the medium of conveying the official greetings of His Excellency, the President of the United States, to the Supreme Court, Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, Moscow, U.S. S.R, and of the giving of assurance to said court that “we shall be pleased to do the same for you in a similar case, when required”.

This District Court of the United States of America, whose power and authority to function as such within the Eastern District of Louisiana is derived from the Constitution and the Acts of Congress, should not exercise that authority (as for instance in the issuance of letters rogatory now being applied for) in such a manner as to belittle, in the eyes of a foreign court, the very source of the authority which, alone, under normal conditions, would justify this court in seeking the good offices of said foreign court, in the name of said United States of America, to the end that justice may be done in this American court.