Subpoenas in Civil Suits

If you are properly subpoenaed to testify as a witness or to produce documents in a civil case it is important to make a quick decision if you are going to comply or resist – as timelines affect the viability of your options. This is also the point where you need to consult or retain counsel.

If you choose to resist, you may:

  • File Written Objections to a Document Subpoena

There are many grounds for objecting to a document subpoena, including that the subpoena:

„Seeks irrelevant material;

Is so vague that compliance is not reasonable;

Requires disclosure of privileged or other protected information; and 

Is unduly burdensome or does not allow enough time to comply

By making written objections, you do not have to comply with the subpoena until the court orders it by granting the serving side a motion to compel – which must also be properly served upon you.

  • Move to Quash or Modify

A subpoena for live testimony and/or documents must be quashed or modified if it –

  • Requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter; or
  • Is unduly burdensome, fails to allow a reasonable time to comply or requires a witness to travel more than 100 miles.
  • Seek a Protective Order

A protective order may only be granted for good cause, meaning that it will cause a clearly defined and serious injury. In making this determination, courts may weigh factors such as whether the information is sought for a legitimate or for an improper purpose, violates any privacy interests, or causes embarrassment.

  • Contact Adverse Party 

Assuming that negotiation with the serving party would not be productive, you may want to consider contacting the party on the other side of the suit. That adverse party may independently move to quash or modify your subpoena if it has grounds.

Most importantly, you should know that if you do not comply with a valid subpoena, you may be held in contempt or sanctioned.


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