Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale v. United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa

PETITIONER: Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale
RESPONDENT: United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa
LOCATION: Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 85-1695
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 522 (1987)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1987

ADVOCATES:
John W. Ford - on behalf of the petitioners
Jeffrey P. Minear - on behalf of the United States and Securities and Exchange Commission, as amicus curiae
Richard H. Doyle, IV - on behalf of the respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale v. United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1987 in Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale v. United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments first this morning in No. 85-1695, Societe Nationale Industrielle, et cetera, versus United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Mr. Ford, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

John W. Ford:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case concerns The Hague Evidence Convention which establishes procedures for gathering evidence located on the soil of other signator nations.

The United States and the other Convention signators before the Court all agree the court below erred in holding the Convention does not apply here.

They all agree the decision of the Eighth Circuit should be vacated and the case remanded.

The major issue before the Court today is how to harmonize the Convention with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because both are the law of the United States.

As the amicus briefs show, the extent to which the Convention displaces U.S. discovery rules is a question on which the Convention signators hold divergent views.

To reconcile those differences and to effectuate the Convention's purpose, today we urge the Court to adopt a general rule requiring resort by American courts to The Hague Evidence Convention in the first instance.

The Convention preamble states its basic purpose of mutual judicial cooperation in civil or commercial matters.

Its history shows the Convention was adopted in large measure to avoid the friction created by the extraterritorial application of American discovery procedures as the new restatement of the law of foreign relations of the United States recognizes American attempts to conduct discovery abroad have been a major source of friction with our European trading partners.

In negotiation of the treaty the United States obtained significant concessions from the civil law nations on the basis that Convention procedures would be a substitute for the unsupervised extraterritorial use of American discovery rules, or as some writers have referred to it, legal tourism by American lawyers on the discovery trail.

At the bargaining table the civil law nations made clear they regarded such American discovery practices as invasive of their sovereign rights.

Ultimately, the civil law nations agreed to liberalize and simplify the process for obtaining evidence through their Courts for use abroad as the quid pro quo for lessening foreign intrusions of their sovereignty.

John Paul Stevens:

Mr. Ford, may I just interrupt?

You say your position now is that they should resort to The Hague Convention in the first instance.

Is that the same position you took in the trial court?

John W. Ford:

Justice Stevens, it is to this extent.

In the trial court we urged first upon the Court exclusive use.

John Paul Stevens:

Right.

John W. Ford:

Alternatively we argued--

John Paul Stevens:

And are you abandoning the exclusive use position?

John W. Ford:

--We are not abandoning, Justice Stevens, the exclusive use position.

As a French national, my client supports the position of its home sovereign as stated in the amicus brief filed for the Republic of France.

However, as an independent entity, an independently managed entity, although albeit we are owned, our shares are owned by the government of France, we must face the practical results of litigating before United States courts, and recognizing the position taken by the Solicitor General, particularly after the opinion given to the Court in Falzon, Volkswagen versus Falzon, cited in the briefs, we today urge the Court for a general rule for American courts of first use.

Thurgood Marshall:

We are bound by The Hague Convention, are we not?

John W. Ford:

It is our position, Justice Marshall, that we are.

Thurgood Marshall:

Can't that be answered yes or no?

John W. Ford:

I beg your pardon?

Thurgood Marshall:

Can't that be answered yes or no?

John W. Ford:

It can, and the answer is yes.