The Chargé in France (Whitehouse) to the Secretary of State

No. 5573

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 1591 of July 2, 1925, transmitting a draft of a convention relating to letters rogatory which the Government of the United States would be pleased to conclude with the Government of the French Republic if the proposal should be acceptable to that Government.

The Embassy duly submitted this draft convention to the consideration of the French Government and is now in receipt of a reply from the French Foreign Office dated September 24, 1925, stating that before being able to consider this draft, it required to be furnished with more precise information on certain points thereof. A copy and translation of this note is enclosed.

I have [etc.]

Sheldon Whitehouse

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy

By a note under date of July 21st last, the Embassy of the United States was good enough to transmit to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs a draft of a convention relating to the execution of letters rogatory.

Before being able to consider this draft, it is advisable first of all to know precisely what its import will be.

The first article lays down as a general principle:

The present convention applies only to letters rogatory issued in connection with judicial proceedings, for the recovery of money or property, and to which the Government of the United States or the Government of France is a party or in which they have an interest.

Does this article take in only civil matters, that is, suits in which the State lays claim to a sum of money or to property in cases similar to those in which private individuals may do the same? Example, a person by testament has made a legacy subject to contestation to the State, which applies to the tribunals to enforce its rights.

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Does this article take in likewise penal matters? Example, an object of art has been stolen from a museum.

Finally, will this article be operant in questions of fiscal matters? Example, a taxpayer is sued for a false return, the proof of which may be secured by inquiry or search in the other country.

The French Government in a general way would like to know what are the particular cases in respect to letters rogatory which the Government of the United States intends to cover by this first article.

In Article III, paragraph E, it is said: The designations French court and American court used in the present article signify every “court of record” throughout the territory over which France or the United States respectively exercises sovereignty.

It would seem to be necessary to state precisely what tribunals are thus signified in the United States by the term “court of record” and what their competence is, in order to find the equivalent term in French, the French judicial organization differing greatly from the American judicial organization.

In Article V it is specified that no fees or taxes of any nature whatsoever shall be levied by either of the High Contracting Parties in connection with the transmission or execution of letters rogatory. Nevertheless any expenses incurred by the authority petitioned, and which were reasonably necessary to effect execution, shall be repaid by the authority petitioning.

The execution of letters rogatory requires certain formalities, subpoenaing of witnesses, indemnification of the latter, expenses of search, examination, expertise, of which quite a complete nomenclature can be made. It would seem to be preferable to decide in a precise way what expenses shall or shall not be reimbursed.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will be greatly obliged to the Embassy to be good enough to advise it of the views of the Government of the United States on the questions set forth.