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28 U.S.C.S. § 1782(a) authorizes, but does not require, a federal district court to provide judicial assistance to foreign or international tribunals or to interested persons in proceedings abroad.
In 1964, pursuant to a recommendation by the Commission on International Rules of Judicial Procedure (Rules Commission), and as part of an endeavor to improve judicial assistance between the United States and foreign countries, Congress completely revised 28 U.S.C. § 1782(a). In its current form, § 1782(a) provides that a federal district court "may order" a person residing or found in the district to give testimony or produce documents "for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal . . . upon the application of any interested person." The 1964 overhaul of § 1782(a) deleted the prior law's words, "in any judicial proceeding pending in any court in a foreign country." Respondent Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) filed an antitrust complaint against petitioner Intel Corporation (Intel) with the Directorate-General for Competition (DG-Competition) of the Commission of the European Communities (Commission), alleging that Intel had violated European competition law. After the DG-Competition declined AMD's recommendation to seek documents Intel had produced in a private antitrust suit in an Alabama federal court, AMD petitioned the District Court for the Northern District of California under § 1782(a) for an order directing Intel to produce those documents. The District Court concluded that § 1782(a) did not authorize such discovery. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to rule on the application's merits. The appeals court observed that § 1782(a) includes matters before bodies of a quasi-judicial or administrative nature, and, since 1964, has contained no limitation to foreign proceedings that are "pending." A proceeding judicial in character, the Ninth Circuit noted, was a likely sequel to the Commission investigation. The Court of Appeals rejected Intel's argument that § 1782(a) called for a threshold showing that the documents AMD sought, if located in the European Union, would have been discoverable in the Commission investigation. Nothing in § 1782(a)'s language or legislative history, the Ninth Circuit said, required a "foreign-discoverability" rule of that order.
Did Section 1782(a) authorize the District Court to provide discovery aid to AMD?
The United States Supreme Court held that § 1782(a) provided the district court with authority to entertain AMD’s discovery request. Even though AMD was not a party in the foreign proceedings, it was clearly an interested party within the meaning of the statute, and the commission was a qualifying tribunal when acting as a quasi-judicial decisionmaker. Further, the foreign proceeding needed not be pending but only in reasonable contemplation, and § 1782(a) had no threshold requirement that the material be discoverable under foreign law. Nonetheless, compelling the discovery was authorized but not required, and comity and parity concerns could inform the district court's broad discretion.