What To Do With a Subpoena?

Getting served with a subpoena is not anyone’s idea of fun. We know. But getting served with a subpoena does not necessarily need to be as stomach-churning as it might be if you keep the following points in mind.

What’s a Subpoena?

A subpoena (pronounced “suh-pee-nuh”) is simply a court-ordered request for the production of documents (“Records Subpoena”) and/or a request for a personal appearance in a deposition or a court (“Appearance Subpoena”). Subpoenas are typically issued to non-parties when a lawsuit is pending and when one party seeks the testimony and/or documentary evidence that it believes a non-party can offer.

Subpoenas can request records and your personal appearance; subpoena types can be combined.

What To Do With a Subpoena?

Once you get a subpoena, what should you do? Several things:

  • Pause and Breathe—Take a moment to stop the frantic mental chatter that you feel when a subpoena lands on your desk. It’s okay to feel that surge of franticness when you’re served with the subpoena. But don’t let it control you.
  • Resolve Not to Ignore the Subpoena—After you are served with a subpoena, you must make a conscious effort not to brush it aside. Ignoring the subpoena wouldn’t make things better and could make things much worse. Subpoenas are court-ordered. This means that a court can impose monetary sanctions (or worse) against you for disobeying the subpoena.
  • Determine If the Deadline(s) Set in the Subpoena Work for You—Subpoenaing parties often unilaterally set deadlines for the production of documents or an in-person appearance. Often times those deadlines are negotiable with the subpoenaing party. So, check your calendar. You may not need to cancel or postpone a pre-planned event.
  • Understand What the Subpoena Seeks—After determining whether the subpoena’s purported deadlines work for you, try to understand what the subpoenaing party wants from you. This information should be contained in the subpoena—or attached as an addendum. Does the subpoenaing party want to depose you in person? Copies of the contracts you executed? Copies of your job license? The possibilities here are virtually limitless but understanding what exactly the subpoenaing party seeks can potentially avoid needless anxiety. Too often, clients call us in an agitated state, assuming—without good reason—that a subpoena seeks far more information than it really does. Not every subpoena requires you to divulge the entire history of your life or business.
  • Determine If You Can Comply With the Subpoena’s Request(s)—Next, take a few moments to determine if you can even comply with the subpoena’s request(s). Sometimes a subpoena will demand that you essentially do the impossible, such as produce documents that you never had, that never existed, or that do not currently exist. That is because subpoenaing parties often take a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach when issuing subpoenas. If you can’t do what the subpoena asks you to do, do not panic. Take note of that fact. No judge will require you to do the impossible.
  • Contact Counsel—Finally, contact counsel. Counsel can determine if it can object to your subpoena on procedural and/or substantive grounds, negotiate reductions in the subpoena’s scope, or seek judicial intervention if needed to protect your interests.

If you need assistance to further understand how this impacts you or your business, please contact us at info@mnklawyers.com.

This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between MNK Law and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material.