Allison Harrison
June 2, 2023

Navigating Legal Waters: A Comprehensive Guide to Responding to Subpoenas

Understanding Subpoenas: Types and Your Responsibilities

Subpoenas come in two main types: those for discovery and those for trial appearances. Let's break down what each means for you.

Discovery Subpoenas: Gathering Information Before Trial

A discovery subpoena helps collect information relevant to a lawsuit before it goes to trial. You're not a party in the lawsuit but may have important information. It's crucial to respond to these subpoenas because ignoring them could lead to penalties like paying the issuing party's legal fees.

How to Respond to a Discovery Subpoena

When you receive a discovery subpoena, it may ask for specific documents or your presence at a deposition (a formal statement given under oath). Even though you're not being sued, it's important to read the subpoena carefully and gather any relevant documents. While hiring a lawyer to help you respond or raise objections is an option, it's not mandatory. The same goes for attending a deposition – you can have a lawyer present, but it's not required.

Handling Document Requests: What You Need to Know

If the subpoena requests records, you should provide them as they're normally kept (like electronically, if that's your usual method). If any documents are private due to legal reasons (like attorney-client or doctor-patient confidentiality), you need to mention this in your response. This is called a 'privilege log.' If producing these documents is overly burdensome, you can request the court for relief.

When You're Subpoenaed for Court Appearances

If you're subpoenaed to appear in court, you need to be there on the specified date unless you have an unavoidable conflict, like a funeral. If you can't make it, inform the issuing party immediately. At the court, you'll be asked to testify under oath. Remember, if any questions breach confidentiality, you have the right to refuse to answer them.

The Risks of Ignoring a Subpoena

Ignoring a subpoena can lead to being found in contempt of court. This means the court can impose fines or even order the payment of legal fees to the party that issued the subpoena, especially if the court thinks you resisted without a valid reason.