A while back I wrote about the United Company Rusal v. Trafigura case, the only case I know of with a really serious discussion of why the district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over applications for judicial assistance. I threatened promised to come back to the jurisdictional question as time permitted. As a first step, I think it’s useful to consider the origins of judicial assistance in Anglo-American law. So consider yourself warned. At common law, parties generally weren’t entitled to pretrial discovery. But this often left plaintiffs without an effective remedy in cases where the key testimony belonged to a witness abroad. The Court of Chancery developed a remedy: the bill of discovery seeking a commission to take a deposition abroad. The bill was…

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