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A formal written request made by one judicial body to another court in a different, independent jurisdiction that a witness who resides in that jurisdiction be examined through the use of interrogatories accompanying the request.
A device used in International Law by which the courts of one country ask the courts of another to utilize their procedure to assist the country making the request in the administration of justice within its borders.
The use of letters rogatory can be traced to early American Legal History when they facilitated cooperation between the courts of the several states of the Union. Their continued use is based primarily upon the comity (courtesy and respect) of courts toward each other. Rule 28 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for letters rogatory to be used in federal courts to obtain the testimony of a witness who resides in a foreign country through a number of different discovery devices. The Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters (28 U.S.C.A. § 1781 ) sets out the procedures to be followed in the use of letters rogatory by the countries who are parties to the treaty.
Letters rogatory can be sent to a court in a sister state or to a court or judge in a foreign country. Granting the request, again, is a matter of comity between courts.
letters rogatorysee LETTERS OF REQUEST.
LETTERS ROGATORY. A letter rogatory is an instrument sent in the name and by
the authority of a judge or court to another, requesting the latter to cause
to be examined, upon interrogatories filed in a cause depending before the
former, a witness who is within the jurisdiction of the judge or court to
whom such letters are addressed. In letters rogatory there is always an
offer on the part of the court whence they issued, to render a similar
service to the court to which they may be directed whenever required. Pet.
C. C. Rep. 236.
2. Though formerly used in England in the courts of common law, 1 Roll. Ab. 530, pl. 13, they have been superseded by commissions of Dedimus potestatem, which are considered to be but a feeble substitute. Dunl. Pr. 223, n.; Hall's Ad. Pr. 37. The courts of admiralty use these letters, which are derived from the civil law, and are recognized by the law of nations. See Foelix, Dr. Intern. liv. 2, t. 4, p. 800; Denisart, h.t.