In simple terms, a letter rogatory is a letter of request from a forum court to a foreign judge, asking for judicial assistance in some form.

This assistance overcomes infringement on the foreign court’s authority and the foreign country’s sovereignty, and is needed when serving process, taking evidence, or enforcing judgments. That definition is where the simplicity ends.

Letters rogatory are normally transmitted via a complicated maze of diplomatic channels. American and Canadian lawyers need the assistance of the State Department and DFAIT, respectively, to convey requests to the foreign ministries of receiving nations. Those counterparts then relay the requests to the appropriate local judicial authority for processing.

Two Textbook Definitions

Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Ed. (letter of request): “A document issued by one court to a foreign court, requesting that the foreign court (1) take evidence from a specific person within the foreign jurisdiction or serve process on an individual or corporation within the foreign jurisdiction and (2) return the testimony or proof of service for use in a pending case.”

22 C.F.R. § 92.54: “In its broader sense in international practice, the term letters rogatory denotes a formal request from a court in which an action is pending, to a foreign court to perform some judicial act. Examples are requests for the taking of evidence, the serving of a summons, subpoena, or other legal notice, or the execution of a civil judgment.”

Such a multi-step procedure creates numerous chances for errors and omissions, so practitioners are best advised to seek specialized help.

Contact LLS’ staff attorneys to draft and manage a letter rogatory.

Call 1-800-755-5775 for a consultation.