The Commercial Litigation Branch, Office of Foreign Litigation (OFL) protects U.S. interests in all litigation pending in foreign courts, whether civil or criminal, affirmative or defensive. In addition to its Washington, DC headquarters, OFL operates field offices in Panama, London, and Rome. OFL attorneys are not licensed to practice law in foreign jurisdictions. Therefore, the office retains and closely instructs foreign counsel to represent U.S. interests in foreign courts. Its goal is to ensure that the United States’ wide range of policies, programs, and activities are fully protected when challenged through foreign court litigation.
Most Office of Foreign Litigation cases are defensive, and they reflect the wide range of the U.S. Government’s international activities. OFL cases vary from employment disputes brought by foreign nationals working in U.S. embassies, consulates, and military bases abroad to litigation arising from U.S. agency or military activities in foreign countries. The office also conducts affirmative litigation, including litigation aimed at fighting cross-border fraud, such as telemarketing fraud, that targets American citizens. When appropriate, OFL represents the United States’ interests in foreign criminal proceedings involving prosecutions for criminal activity directed against the United States, its officers, and employees. At any given time, foreign lawyers under OFL’s direct supervision represent the United States in approximately 1,800 lawsuits pending in the courts of over 100 countries.
With its experience in international law and familiarity with foreign legal systems, OFL frequently provides legal advice to federal agencies, departments, and government officials regarding litigation risks abroad and it responds to questions involving public or private international law. The Office of Foreign Litigation also works closely with the Department of State on international treaties involving private international law, and it serves on the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Private International Law.
In addition, the Office of Foreign Litigation acts as the Central Authority for incoming requests for international judicial assistance in civil or commercial matters involving service of process or evidence under several treaties. These treaties include the Hague Evidence Convention, the Hague Service Convention, and the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol. In performing its duties as Central Authority, OFL is referred to as the Office of International Judicial Assistance.