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socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Business Law
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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Re. the subpoena power of the RI District Federal Court. Can

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Re. the subpoena power of the RI District Federal Court. Can someone tell me how much power this (or any state's) federal court has overseas? For instance, I have sent a subpoena relating to a case in this court to the correct channels of the Swiss government who has forwarded it on to a Swiss corporation in order to get some very valuable information pertaining to the case here in my defense. Do they have to answer? Is there anything I can do to get them to answer?

Similarly the plaintiff in the case against me in this court has subpoenaed all of my banks for info about my accounts. Some of the answers will lead them to my overseas accounts. Does the court have the power to subpoena information about my overseas accounts and get it back from those countries? countries in question are the UK and Australia. Thanks.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 6 years ago.

A U.S. Federal Court's jurisdiction extends to those places within the territorial boundaries of the USA, or where the U.S. Court has authority under consent of a foreign power. Obviously, no jurisdiction extends to Switzerland.


However, where a foreign organization has property interests and assets which are within U.S. territorial control, it is sometimes possible to enforce a court order, by permiting the enforcing party to reach the foreign organization's property. This cannot happen unless the organization is actually a party to an action -- merely being a witness is insufficient to pemit a federal court to exercise control.


Generally, when trying to obtain information from a foreign organization, a court will issue "letters rogatory" to the subpoenaing party, who will then seek an order from the foreign court to permit a subpoena or other legal process to issue. Whereupon a foreign attorney will be retained to effect legal process and obtain the requisite information.


The Swiss corporation could, of course, simply volunteer the information to you. But, absent an order from a Swiss court, there is no way for you to force the discovery.


Similar procedures would be required for any foreign organization.


Hope this helps.


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