The Office of International Judicial Assistance ("OIJA") serves as the Central Authority for the United States pursuant to the Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, T.I.A.S. No. 7444, 23 U.S.T. 2555 ("HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention"). In addition, OIJA handles evidence requests received from non-Convention States through diplomatic channels. Please note the United States is not a party to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory for purposes of obtaining evidence.
I. Inbound Evidence Requests
OIJA strongly encourages members of the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention to utilize the Model Letter of Request form. Whether received pursuant to the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention or through diplomatic channels, OIJA reviews incoming requests to assess whether they can be executed under our legal system. Our OIJA Evidence and Service Guidance addresses common requests that cannot be executed under our legal system and will thus be returned without execution (see link below).
Generally, an executable request must include the names of the parties in the foreign proceeding and a sufficiently detailed description of the nature of the underlying proceeding. If documentary evidence is sought, the request must include a description of the documents sufficient to allow the competent authority executing the request to identify them. If the request seeks witness testimony, the request must include the name and contact information of the witness and a list of specific questions to be posed, as well as any instructions that the Requesting Authority may have regarding the manner of questioning, i.e., whether sworn or unsworn and whether any privileges are applicable. All this information must be provided in English. Unless a deposition is specifically requested, the method of obtaining witness testimony is through answers to written interrogatories. Please note, consistent with Articles 14(2) and 26 of the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention, OIJA will seek reimbursement for certain costs, such as court reporter fees.
After confirming that requests comply with applicable international requirements and U.S. law, OIJA moves forward with execution or refers the request to the appropriate United States Attorney's Office (USAO). Where a witness provides the requested evidence voluntarily, a request may be quickly executed. However, where a witness must be compelled to provide the requested evidence, the USAO must initiate judicial proceedings in the United States under 28 U.S.C. § 1782, which will require additional time for execution.
OIJA discourages the submission of duplicate requests. Instead, Requesting Authorities should request status updates by contacting OIJA@usdoj.gov. We encourage Requesting Authorities to provide us with an e-mail address to which inquiries and updates may be sent and to contact OIJA to update or modify a previously submitted request. When requested evidence is no longer needed, we ask that the Requesting Authority promptly notifies OIJA.
II. Outbound Evidence Requests
As the Central Authority pursuant to the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention, OIJA processes Letters of Request issued by a foreign judicial authority for the collection of evidence, whether documentary or testimonial, in the United States. OIJA does not process, review, or transmit Letters of Request or letters rogatory for the collection of evidence in a foreign state in private U.S. litigation matters.
Questions can be directed to OIJA at OIJA@usdoj.gov. Our mailing address can be found under Contact Us.
HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention
U.S. Department of State Guidance