Glock v. Glock, Inc., 797 F.3d 1002 (11th Cir. 2015) [click for opinion]

Plaintiff-appellant Helga M. Glock (“Helga”) divorced her husband Gaston Glock (“Gaston”) in a dissolution action in Austria. In support of that action, Helga sought and obtained discovery from Gaston’s related business entities in the United States under 28 U.S.C. § 1782. Later, Helga filed a RICO action in the United States against Gaston and the business entities. In the RICO action, Helga sought to use documents she had obtained as a result of her § 1782 petition.

Gaston objected, arguing § 1782 prohibits litigants from using the documents or information they obtain in unrelated litigation in the United States. Alternatively, Gaston argued Helga violated the protective order entered in her § 1782 action by using the documents in an unrelated litigation. The district court agreed with Gaston, concluding that allowing Helga to use evidence obtained in a § 1782 action in a separate civil lawsuit in the United States was “contrary to law” and that the protective order should be construed to prohibit such use since it was entered in the context of a § 1782 action.

The Eleventh Circuit rejected the district court’s interpretation of § 1782 and also found that the protective order entered in the § 1782 discovery action did not prevent Helga from using the information she obtained in the RICO action.

The Eleventh Circuit recognized that whether a litigant could use discovery under § 1782 in an unrelated matter was a question of first impression in the Eleventh Circuit. The dispute arose because the language of § 1782 authorizes discovery in U.S. courts “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” Gaston argued this prohibited Helga from using the documents in a domestic RICO action. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, finding Congress did not express a clear intent that § 1782 evidence could “solely” or “only” be used in a foreign proceeding.

Gaston also pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s suggestion in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241, 247 (2004) that courts, in considering whether to exercise discretion to grant a § 1782 application, evaluate whether the application “conceals an attempt to circumvent foreign proof-gathering restrictions or other policies of a foreign country or the United States.” Gaston argued that construing § 1782 in a way that does not prohibit later use of evidence obtained under the statute would allow parties to circumvent domestic discovery rules. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, noting that under Intel, a party suspecting such subterfuge should bring it to the attention of the court at the time of the § 1782 application, or seek a protective order prohibiting use of the documents in U.S. proceedings.

Finally, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed Gaston’s argument that the protective order in the § 1782 action prohibited use of the documents in the RICO action, because the language of the protective order did not expressly preclude Helga from using the § 1782 evidence in United States civil litigation.

Michael Lehrman of the Chicago office contributed to this case summary.