Rule 28 – Persons Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken

(a) Within the United States.

(1) In General. Within the United States or a territory or insular possession subject to United States jurisdiction, a deposition must be taken before:

(A) an officer authorized to administer oaths either by federal law or by the law in the place of examination; or

(B) a person appointed by the court where the action is pending to administer oaths and take testimony.

(2) Definition of “Officer.” The term “officer” in Rules 3031, and 32 includes a person appointed by the court under this rule or designated by the parties under Rule 29(a).

(b) In a Foreign Country.

(1) In General. A deposition may be taken in a foreign country:

(A) under an applicable treaty or convention;

(B) under a letter of request, whether or not captioned a “letter rogatory”;

(C) on notice, before a person authorized to administer oaths either by federal law or by the law in the place of examination; or

(D) before a person commissioned by the court to administer any necessary oath and take testimony.

(2) Issuing a Letter of Request or a Commission. A letter of request, a commission, or both may be issued:

(A) on appropriate terms after an application and notice of it; and

(B) without a showing that taking the deposition in another manner is impracticable or inconvenient.

(3) Form of a Request, Notice, or Commission. When a letter of request or any other device is used according to a treaty or convention, it must be captioned in the form prescribed by that treaty or convention. A letter of request may be addressed “To the Appropriate Authority in [name of country].” A deposition notice or a commission must designate by name or descriptive title the person before whom the deposition is to be taken.

(4) Letter of Request—Admitting Evidence. Evidence obtained in response to a letter of request need not be excluded merely because it is not a verbatim transcript, because the testimony was not taken under oath, or because of any similar departure from the requirements for depositions taken within the United States.

(c) Disqualification. A deposition must not be taken before a person who is any party’s relative, employee, or attorney; who is related to or employed by any party’s attorney; or who is financially interested in the action.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 28 addresses the persons before whom depositions may be taken, both within the United States and in foreign countries, and it establishes the authority required to administer oaths and take testimony for legal proceedings. This rule is crucial for ensuring that depositions are conducted properly and that the testimony obtained is valid and admissible in court. Here are the key components of Rule 28:

Within the United States

  1. Officers Authorized to Administer Oaths: The rule specifies that depositions should be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by the laws of the United States or the place where the examination is held. This includes officers like notaries public, court clerks, and other individuals designated by court rule or statute.
  2. Designation by Court: A court may also designate a person who is not otherwise authorized to administer oaths, provided that the person has no conflict of interest (i.e., they are not related to, affiliated with, or employed by any of the parties involved in the case).

In Foreign Countries

  1. Methods Specified: For taking depositions in a foreign country, Rule 28 outlines several methods, including using a person authorized to administer oaths in the place where the deposition is taken, someone appointed by the court where the action is pending, or according to a treaty or agreement between the United States and the country where the deposition is taken.
  2. Use of Foreign Officers: It also allows for depositions to be taken before a consul or diplomatic officer of the United States, or before a person commissioned by the court to administer oaths and take testimony.

General Provisions

  • Stipulations: Parties can stipulate in writing to take a deposition before any person, at any time or place, under any conditions, and on any notice.
  • Disqualification: The rule disqualifies certain individuals from taking depositions, such as those who are relatives or employees of any parties, have a financial interest in the action, or are otherwise likely to be biased.

Rule 28 ensures the integrity of the deposition process by setting standards for who can administer oaths and take testimony, thereby preserving the reliability and admissibility of deposition evidence in court proceedings. This rule, like others in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, aims to standardize procedural aspects of legal proceedings to promote fairness and efficiency in the U.S. legal system.


(As amended Dec. 27, 1946, eff. Mar. 19, 1948; Jan. 21, 1963, eff. July 1, 1963; Apr. 29, 1980, eff. Aug. 1, 1980; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 1, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

In effect this rule is substantially the same as U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §639 (Depositions de bene esse; when and where taken; notice). U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §642 (Depositions, acknowledgements, and affidavits taken by notaries public) does not conflict with subdivision (a).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1946 Amendment

The added language [in subdivision (a)] provides for the situation, occasionally arising, when depositions must be taken in an isolated place where there is no one readily available who has the power to administer oaths and take testimony according to the terms of the rule as originally stated. In addition, the amendment affords a more convenient method of securing depositions in the case where state lines intervene between the location of various witnesses otherwise rather closely grouped. The amendment insures that the person appointed shall have adequate power to perform his duties. It has been held that a person authorized to act in the premises, as, for example, a master, may take testimony outside the district of his appointment. Consolidated Fastener Co. v. Columbian Button & Fastener Co. (C.C.N.D.N.Y. 1898) 85 Fed. 54; Mathieson Alkali Works v. Arnold, Hoffman & Co. (C.C.A.1st, 1929) 31 F.(2d) 1.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1963 Amendment

The amendment of clause (1) is designed to facilitate depositions in foreign countries by enlarging the class of persons before whom the depositions may be taken on notice. The class is no longer confined, as at present, to a secretary of embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent of the United States. In a country that regards the taking of testimony by a foreign official in aid of litigation pending in a court of another country as an infringement upon its sovereignty, it will be expedient to notice depositions before officers of the country in which the examination is taken. See generally Symposium, Letters Rogatory (Grossman ed. 1956); Doyle, Taking Evidence by Deposition and Letters Rogatory and Obtaining Documents in Foreign Territory, Proc. A.B.A., Sec. Int’l & Comp. L. 37 (1959); Heilpern, Procuring Evidence Abroad, 14 Tul.L.Rev. 29 (1939); Jones, International Judicial Assistance: Procedural Chaos and a Program for Reform, 62 Yale L.J. 515, 526–29 (1953); Smit, International Aspects of Federal Civil Procedure, 61 Colum.L.Rev. 1031, 1056–58 (1961).

Clause (2) of amended subdivision (b), like the corresponding provision of subdivision (a) dealing with depositions taken in the United States, makes it clear that the appointment of a person by commission in itself confers power upon him to administer any necessary oath.

It has been held that a letter rogatory will not be issued unless the use of a notice or commission is shown to be impossible or impractical. See, e.g., United States v. Matles, 154 F.Supp. 574 (E.D.N.Y. 1957); The Edmund Fanning, 89 F.Supp. 282 (E.D.N.Y. 1950); Branyan v. Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, 13 F.R.D. 425 (S.D.N.Y. 1953). See also Ali Akber Kiachif v. Philco International Corp., 10 F.R.D. 277 (S.D.N.Y. 1950). The intent of the fourth sentence of the amended subdivision is to overcome this judicial antipathy and to permit a sound choice between depositions under a letter rogatory and on notice or by commission in the light of all the circumstances. In a case in which the foreign country will compel a witness to attend or testify in aid of a letter rogatory but not in aid of a commission, a letter rogatory may be preferred on the ground that it is less expensive to execute, even if there is plainly no need for compulsive process. A letter rogatory may also be preferred when it cannot be demonstrated that a witness will be recalcitrant or when the witness states that he is willing to testify voluntarily, but the contingency exists that he will change his mind at the last moment. In the latter case, it may be advisable to issue both a commission and a letter rogatory, the latter to be executed if the former fails. The choice between a letter rogatory and a commission may be conditioned by other factors, including the nature and extent of the assistance that the foreign country will give to the execution of either.

In executing a letter rogatory the courts of other countries may be expected to follow their customary procedure for taking testimony. See United States v. Paraffin Wax, 2255 Bags, 23 F.R.D. 289 (E.D.N.Y. 1959). In many non-common-law countries the judge questions the witness, sometimes without first administering an oath, the attorneys put any supplemental questions either to the witness or through the judge, and the judge dictates a summary of the testimony, which the witness acknowledges as correct. See Jones, supra, at 530–32; Doyle, supra, at 39–41. The last sentence of the amended subdivision provides, contrary to the implications of some authority, that evidence recorded in such a fashion need not be excluded on that account. See The Mandu, 11 F.Supp. 845 (E.D.N.Y. 1935). But cf. Nelson v. United States, 17 Fed.Cas. 1340 (No. 10,116) (C.C.D.Pa. 1816); Winthrop v. Union Ins. Co., 30 Fed.Cas. 376 (No. 17901) (C.C.D.Pa. 1807). The specific reference to the lack of an oath or a verbatim transcript is intended to be illustrative. Whether or to what degree the value or weight of the evidence may be affected by the method of taking or recording the testimony is left for determination according to the circumstances of the particular case, cf. Uebersee Finanz-Korporation, A.G. v. Brownell, 121 F.Supp. 420 (D.D.C. 1954); Danisch v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 19 F.R.D. 235 (S.D.N.Y. 1956); the testimony may indeed be so devoid of substance or probative value as to warrant its exclusion altogether.

Some foreign countries are hostile to allowing a deposition to be taken in their country, especially by notice or commission, or to lending assistance in the taking of a deposition. Thus compliance with the terms of amended subdivision (b) may not in all cases ensure completion of a deposition abroad. Examination of the law and policy of the particular foreign country in advance of attempting a deposition is therefore advisable. See 4 Moore’s Federal Practice 28.05–28.08 (2d ed. 1950).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1980 Amendment

The amendments are clarifying.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment

This revision is intended to make effective use of the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, and of any similar treaties that the United States may enter into in the future which provide procedures for taking depositions abroad. The party taking the deposition is ordinarily obliged to conform to an applicable treaty or convention if an effective deposition can be taken by such internationally approved means, even though a verbatim transcript is not available or testimony cannot be taken under oath. For a discussion of the impact of such treaties upon the discovery process, and of the application of principles of comity upon discovery in countries not signatories to a convention, see SocieÿAE1teÿAE1 Nationale Industrielle AeÿAE1rospatiale v. United States District Court, 482 U.S. 522 (1987).

The term “letter of request” has been substituted in the rule for the term “letter rogatory” because it is the primary method provided by the Hague Convention. A letter rogatory is essentially a form of letter of request. There are several other minor changes that are designed merely to carry out the intent of the other alterations.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 28 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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