WHAT IS A SUBPOENA?
A subpoena duces tecum is a document used to obtain information in a civil or criminal case. Presently this type of subpoena is commonly called a “Subpoena to Produce Documents or Things for Discovery”. A subpoena is also used in Workers’ Compensation cases for the same purpose. In a Workers’ Compensation case, a subpoena is obtained from the assigned Judge.
In a civil or criminal action, the subpoena is obtained from the Prothonotary’s office of the county in which your action has been filed for a small fee. Once it has been obtained, a copy is sent to opposing counsel with a Notice of Intent to Serve Subpoena. This Notice gives opposing counsel 20 days within which to object in writing to the serving of the subpoena. Opposing counsel also has the opportunity to waive this Notice and the subpoena may be sent to the appropriate entity prior to the 20 day deadline. An addendum may be added to the subpoena stating exactly what is being requested from the entity you are seeking documentation. This is used in the event the list of documents being sought does not fit into the few lines given on the subpoena for that purpose.
At the time the subpoena is being served, usually by regular mail, a Notice is also enclosed directed to the entity advising them to complete an Acknowledgment of Receipt of Subpoena which also to be signed and returned to the sending counsel. Also included with these documents is a Certificate of Compliance form for the person who is responsible for preparing and providing the requested documents to sign and return with the documents being produced within the 20 day time period given to produce and send the documents to the requesting counsel.
On the same date that the subpoena and all accompanying items are being sent to the entity being subpoenaed, a Certificate Prerequisite to Service of Subpoena is filed with the Prothonotary’s office of the appropriate county. This Certificate has a copy of the Notice of Intent to Serve Subpoena, along with a copy of the Subpoena and any accompanying Addendum, attached to it. A copy also needs to be sent to opposing counsel with a Certificate of Service of same.
This may seem very complicated, but it is a common practice for every law firm, and a very good reason why attorneys and their expertise are needed when filing a lawsuit.
Please also note that there is another type of subpoena called “Subpoena to Attend and Testify” which is served on a person, such as a witness in a case, and there are various rules which must be done when that type of subpoena is used. For example, this type of subpoena would be accompanied by a witness fee check for a standard fee, which would also include mileage to and from the destination the witness would be required to go to, as per the instructions in the subpoena being served. It would also be accompanied by a Notice of Deposition directed to that particular person.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of what a subpoena actually is and how it is used by a law office.
Sandra M. Olshefski
267 Wyoming Ave
Kingston, PA 18704
Fax: (570) 821-5799