Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Letters Rogatory Definition:

A request of a judge in one jurisdiction to a court of another, to conduct some litigation-related task such as process service or the examination of a specific witness.

Related Terms: Comity

Also known also as rogatory letters, letters of request or even commissions to collect evidence.

In The Signe, Justice Caillouet of the US District Court (Louisiana) used these words:

"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....

"By the law of nations ... 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."

Richard Fyfe described letters rogatory as follows, in his 2010 article:

"Letters rogatory (involve) ... transmission of the document from the originating court between the originating and recipient states' departments of foreign affairs (or embassies), then to a court in the destination state or to the destination state's department of justice, or some variation of this procedure. Service would eventually be effected as a matter of the diplomatic courtesy."

In A-Dec, Judge Bouck used these words:

"Letters rogatory are sometimes known as letters of request. They constitute a request from one judge to another asking for the examination of a witness by commission in the jurisdiction which is foreign to the requesting court."

In R v Buchanan, Justice Trussler adopted these words identical to those used in The Signe, cited above:

"... letters rogatory are defined as ... a commission from one judge to another requesting him to examine a witness. In the terminology of international law this expression is used as a synonym for what in our law are known as letters of request addressed to a foreign court.

"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."

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