Court Allows Discovery to Enforce Italian Foreign Judgment
We’ve blogged before about the need for certified translations in international probate matters involving foreign judgments and the admissibility of translated foreign documents in U.S. litigation. In the case discussed below, In Re Application for Discovery, Anna Maria Pelleschi and Brigette Pelleschi, Movants, the court allowed an estate’s representatives to conduct discovery via subpoena in order to attempt to satisfy a foreign judgment obtained in Italy. The court refused to consider documents submitted by the foreign defendant in opposing the subpoena on the grounds that the documents were not certified Italian to English translations but had been translated by the defendant himself.
Personal representatives of an estate filed a motion for discovery under 28 U.S.C. § 1782. The representatives sought the court’s assistance in obtaining evidence for use in a foreign proceeding pending in Italy. The representatives filed an application for discovery under § 1782 in which they requested permission to issue and serve a testamentary subpoena dues tecum upon the defendants in the Italian proceeding.
Court Directs Estate’s Representatives to File Certified Italian to English Translation.
In response to the motion, the court directed the estate’s representatives to file a certified English translation of the foreign judgment. Following the representatives’ compliance with this directive, the court granted their motion to issue and serve the subpoena deuces tecum. Thereafter, one of the foreign defendants at whom the subpoena was directed filed a motion asking the court to vacate its order and to quash the subpoena on the grounds that it placed an undue burden on him.
Motion to Vacate Discovery Order.
The defendant from the foreign proceeding argued that the court was precluded from ordering discovery under § 1782 because the foreign proceeding had already concluded; therefore, there was no “ongoing” foreign proceeding which the foreign defendant argued was necessary in order to allow such discovery to occur. In his motion, the defendant submitted an unauthenticated English translation of the Italian court’s order stating that he and the other defendant from the foreign proceeding were the rightful heirs of the disputed estate and had been granted all of the estate’s assets before the assets were brought over to the United States. The defendants claimed that the representatives had wrongfully filed a separate suit in Italy and had obtained a judgment against them in a proceeding in which the foreign defendants were not allowed to participate.
The representatives argued that the foreign proceeding had not concluded as it was in the executory phase following the entry of judgment and further argued that even if the proceeding had officially concluded, that the discovery being sought was necessary in order to execute or satisfy the judgment.
The court agreed with the representatives that they were entitled to seek discovery related to satisfying the foreign judgment. The court noted that under § 1782, in order to obtain discovery, three pre-requisites must be met: (1) the person from whom the discovery is sought “resides or is found” in the district; (2) the discovery sought is “for use in a foreign or international tribunal;” and (3) the application for discovery is made by “any interested person.”
In this case the court found that the discovery was warranted pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of the “broad range of discovery” permitted under § 1782. The court refused to consider the foreign defendant’s “own unauthenticated English translation of an Italian court’s order” on the grounds that it was not a certified translation. The court cited Ramaj v. Gonzales, 466 F.3d 520, 530 (6th Cir. 2006), an immigration case in which the court held that in the absence of a certified translation of a foreign document, the document should be excluded. The court further agreed with the representatives that their request was merely directed at allowing them the opportunity to discover what, if any, assets the foreign defendants possessed that could be used to satisfy the foreign judgment. The representatives were not moving the court to freeze the foreign defendant’s assets.
Motion to Quash Subpoena.
The court also denied the foreign defendant’s motion to quash the subpoena. The foreign defendant had argued that the request for information regarding his personal finances was overly broad and that he maintained significant assets in Italy that the representatives could seek to seize without conducting an investigation into his assets within the United States. In rejecting this argument, the court reasoned that the representatives had already obtained a judgment in their favor and were merely seeking to identify assets to satisfy that judgment. Accordingly, the court held that the discovery requests were “properly aimed at uncovering assets that could be levied against to execute on the Italian court’s judgment for damages.” In a point of clarification, the court noted that the discovery requests were limited to the defendant’s assets within the United States and that the subpoena did not apply to any assets located overseas.
The case is In Re Application for Discovery Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, Anna Maria Pelleschi and Brigitte Pelleschi, Movants, Case No. 1:19-mc-0102, decided on January 22, 2020 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.
All Language Alliance, Inc. provides certified translation of court documents written in Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai, Uzbek, French, Arabic, German, and other evidentiary foreign language documents for use in the U.S. litigation. In addition to translating court documents and affidavits from any foreign language to English, we supply court-certified interpreters for out-of-court proceedings conducted on-site, in-person, as well as Italian deposition interpreters for remote depositions via Zoom, Russian Zoom deposition interpreters, Nepali Zoom deposition interpreters, and video deposition interpreters in other rare and common languages.
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