The Hague Evidence Convention and a Foreign Government as a Witness

Government agencies may also be subject to Hague Evidence Convention proceedings. For example, in the course of U.S.-based litigation, a plaintiff may realize that an Israeli government agency may have relevant and important evidence regarding the defendant. That evidence may include tax-related documents from the Israeli Tax Authority; extracts of traveling reports from the Israeli Ministry of Interior; medical documents from the Ministry of Health; the list goes on.

Whether it's financial evidence, medical evidence, or other types of evidence, this information is available under the Hague Evidence Convention. In such a case, the witness would be the relevant government agency and the Letter of Request must note that. In the Central Authority of the United States v. the Ministry of Health, Chikur Din 49536-01-15 (Mag. Ct. Jer. March 3, 2015), an Israeli trial court executed a Letter of Request on behalf of a California court. The Request sought information in the possession of the Israeli Ministry of Health. The Israeli court had no issue in executing the Letter of Request and assisting the California court.

In a related proceeding, the Israeli trial court also authorized (in theory) the production of tax-related documents on behalf of the California court. Central Authority of the United States v. Tax Authority, Chikur Din 48886-06-15 (Mag. Ct. Jer. Aug. 3, 2015). In theory, that is, because the Israeli court, sue sponte, realized that the Letter of Request was signed by an attorney, NOT the foreign court. Finding that the signature of an attorney is not sufficient under the Hague Evidence Convention, the Israeli court remanded the Letter of Request back to the Israeli Central Authority for further processing. In The Central Authority of Austria v. The Central Authority in Israel, Chikur Din 57764-08-19 (Mag. Ct. Tel Aviv, Feb. 6, 2020) the court executed a Letter of Request seeking documents for the Israeli Ministry of Justice regarding land title.

In short, like any other witness, a government agency is also subject to the mechanisms of the Hague Evidence Convention.

For more on the Hague Evidence Convention in general, see our related posts here and our Hague Evidence Convention: Guide for the Practitioner here.


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