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Prepare to explore the ‘5 Ws of subpoenas’ as we unveil the ‘Who, What, When, Where, and Why’ behind these powerful legal tools. This journey promises to be both informative and empowering, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate this legal terrain.

WHO can issue a subpoena?

The specific rules governing who can issue subpoenas can vary significantly between different states. In most cases, an attorney requests a subpoena, and the court clerk issues it officially on behalf of the court. Also, attorneys representing a party in a legal proceeding can often sign and issue subpoenas on behalf of the court. Depending on the jurisdiction, other legal officials like judges, magistrates, or hearing officers might have the authority to issue subpoenas in specific contexts. Not everyone can issue a subpoena. Private individuals cannot generally issue subpoenas on their own authority. However, in New Jersey, for instance, a self-represented individual can also issue a subpoena.

WHAT are the different types of Subpoenas?

Deposition Subpoena: requires a person to appear and answer questions asked by one party in a lawsuit and/or compels someone who is not a party in a lawsuit to provide copies of business records.

Subpoena Duces Tecum: (“you shall bring with you” is the literal translation) is issued to a person to commanding them to produce certain designated documents or records in court. In general, individuals can comply by mailing, e-mailing, or otherwise providing the records at without an in-person appearance if it’s prearranged.

Note: The Deposition Subpoena differs from the Subpoena Duces Tecum in that the documents and testimony requested are part of the pre-trial “discovery process” and may not be used in an actual hearing.

Witness Subpoena: issued to require someone to appear in court on a certain date and testify as a witness.

WHEN should one object to a subpoena and on what grounds?

Immediately: Generally, you have a limited timeframe to object, often 14 days after receiving the subpoena. Missing this deadline could weaken your position or force compliance. Common grounds for objection include:

Overly Broad: The subpoena requests a vast amount of irrelevant information, exceeding what’s necessary for the legal proceeding.

Vague or Ambiguous: The subpoena may be unclear about what information or documents are sought, making it unreasonable to comply.

Privileged Information: The subpoena seeks information protected by legal privilege such as confidential, proprietary or sensitive data (e.g., attorney-client, doctor-patient).

WHERE are objections resolved?

In general, objections to subpoenas seeking compelled testimony or production of documents are filed with and resolved by the court with jurisdiction over the underlying legal proceeding. This is because the subpoena is issued in connection with that case, and the judge presiding over it has the authority to rule on its validity and scope.

WHY would a litigant need a subpoena?

These powerful legal documents compel individuals or organizations to provide essential evidence for a court case. Time is often critical in legal proceedings, and subpoenas have court-imposed deadlines. This ensures timely access to evidence and prevents delays that could weaken a case.

We hope these questions and answers have been valuable to you. If there’s a topic you’d like to see us address in a future article, drop us a line and let us know.