Subpoenas and Summonses

Occasionally, an attorney, a United States Marshall, a county Sheriff, or other law enforcement officer will show up at your office and hand you a subpoena or summons. Sometimes, those documents may appear in your mail. What are subpoenas and summonses and what should you do if you get one?

A subpoena is a legal document requiring an individual to appear in court or other designated place at a specific time. For example, a subpoena may require a person to testify at a trial or deposition. A subpoena duces tecum is a subpoena that calls for the delivery of documents or other evidence to a particular individual or court at a specified time. Typically, the University receives subpoenas duces tecum for student academic or health records, employment records, and other business records. Subpoenas may be related to lawsuits in which the University or one of its employees is a party. They may also relate to lawsuits in which the University or its employees are involved only as sources of information or as potential witnesses.

A summons is a legal document that informs a defendant in a lawsuit that they are being sued. A summons will generally be accompanied by a Complaint that describes the allegations on which the lawsuit is based.

Whenever you are served with a subpoena, subpoena duces tecum, or summons for any University related matter, you must report it immediately to the University’s Office of General Counsel. If the summons or subpoena involves a lawsuit against the University, the General Counsel’s Office can coordinate the defense of the University and its insureds. If the subpoena relates to a lawsuit in which the University is not a party, the General Counsel’s Office will be able to give advice concerning an appropriate response to the subpoena. Under no circumstances should University documents be released without prior notification and approval from the Office of General Counsel.

From time to time, attorneys, investigators (including federal and state officials), or insurance company representatives contact University faculty members and staff to request information about the University, a student, employee, or faculty member without a subpoena. Whenever a faculty member or employee is contacted by anyone, including private attorneys, State’s attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, Federal investigators, private investigators, or insurance company representatives, he or she must not disclose any information and must immediately notify the Office of General Counsel about the inquiry. The inquiring person should be referred directly to the General Counsel’s Office. The University attorney can work with the outside attorney or investigator regarding an appropriate response.