The Secretary of State to the Attorney General (Mitchell)

Sir: I have received your Department’s letter dated November 6, 1931, concerning the case of Giovanni Girardon v. Romolo Angelone, which is a suit pending in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York against the Commercial Attaché of the Italian Embassy in this city. The letter states that the court desires to know what constitutes a commercial attaché and whether such an official is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

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Concerning the inquiry as to what constitutes a commercial attaché, I quote the provision contained in the Act of Congress approved July 16, 1914:

“Commercial attachés, Department of Commerce: For commercial attaches, to be appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, after examination to be held under his direction to determine their competency, and to be accredited through the State Department, whose duties shall be to investigate and report upon such conditions in the manufacturing industries and trade of foreign countries as may be of interest to the United States; and for one clerk to each of said commercial attachés to be paid a salary not to exceed $1,500 each; and for necessary traveling and subsistence expenses, rent, purchase of reports, travel to and from the United States, and all other necessary expenses not included in the foregoing; such commercial attachés shall serve directly under the Secretary of Commerce and shall report directly to him, $100,000.” (38 Stat. L. 500)

With regard to the inquiry whether Mr. Romolo Angelone, Commercial Attaché of the Italian Embassy, is entitled to diplomatic immunity, I invite your attention to the provisions of Sections 4062–4065 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. Section 4063 provides as follows:

“Whenever any writ or process is sued out or prosecuted by any person in any court of the United States, or of a State, or by any judge or justice, whereby the person of any public minister of any foreign prince or state, authorized and received as such by the President, or any domestic or domestic servant of any such minister, is arrested or imprisoned, or his goods or chattels are distrained, seized, or attached, such writ or process shall be deemed void.”

As stated by Chief Justice Fuller in the case of In re Baiz (135 U. S. 420) this provision was drawn from the British statute (7 Anne c. 12) “which was declaratory simply of the Law of Nations”.

I enclose a copy of the Diplomatic List issued by the Department of State for October, 1931, and invite your attention to the fact that Signor Romolo Angelone is listed on page 3 thereof as the Commercial Attaché of the Italian Embassy. As such attachés are considered to be exempt from judicial process under our laws, it is believed that the legal proceedings against Signor Romolo Angelone should be dismissed. See Hyde International Law, Volume 1, section 438, pages 753, 754; Moore International Law Digest, Volume IV, page 634; Hershey Essentials of International Public Law (1912) pages 293–295.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Wilbur J. Carr

Assistant Secretary