letter of request

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A letter of request is a document asking a foreign court to perform an judicial act, usually to seek assistance with taking evidence or serving process in a foreign jurisdiction. Letters of request are sent directly from the authority seeking assistance to the foreign nation’s Central authority, as opposed to letters rogatory which must be transmitted through diplomatic channels.

Under the Hague Convention, the procedure for a letter of request has been simplified and its operation is not solely dependent on the principle of comity. A letter of request must specify: the authority requesting the letter and the authority to whom the letter is directed, the names and addresses of the parties, the necessary information regarding the proceedings, the evidence required, the names and addresses of the persons to be examined if applicable, questions to be presented to the witnesses and other documents to be inspected if applicable, as well as any other procedure that must be followed during discovery. The letter must be written in or accompanied by a translation of the language of the foreign authority, but the foreign authority must accept the letter in either English or French or in a translated form into one of these languages.

Foreign signatories rarely refuse letters of request, except where a foreign nation does not consider evidence taking as a judicial function or when it believes that providing judicial assistance would usurp its national security or sovereignty.    

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]