Office of General Counsel | Resources

Subpoenas and Court Orders


General Information

The Office of General Counsel is responsible for responding to subpoenas served on faculty members, university officials, and staff in the course and scope of their employment. An employee who receives a subpoena in his or her capacity as an employee should forward it to the Office of General Counsel immediately upon receipt (Fax: 202-885-3285). If a faculty member or employee receives a subpoena in his or her personal capacity (for a reason unrelated to his or her employment with the university), he or she should consider retaining private counsel or should forward the subpoena to his or her private counsel.

This Web page outlines the steps university employees should follow when presented with subpoenas from lawyers, law enforcement officials, or regulatory agency officials. The information is provided as general guidance only and is not to be substituted for the Office of General Counsel's legal advice.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal document that may be issued in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding. A subpoena may be served in order to require an individual to give testimony at a deposition, hearing, or trial, or to produce documents or other tangible things for inspection and/or copying by another party. A subpoena must meet several specific requirements before it is legally enforceable. Before responding, an attorney in the Office of General Counsel will review the subpoena to determine whether it is legally enforceable and, if not, take the necessary steps to so inform the parties and the court.

What Should I Do With the Subpoena?

If someone appears with a subpoena and attempts to serve you with it in connection with your work at the university:

(1) Do not accept any document the person tries to hand you.

(2) Direct the person to the Office of General Counsel at 3201 New Mexico Ave., NW, Suite 270.

(3) If the person does not comply, call the Office of General Counsel immediately (202-885-3285) and ask to speak with an attorney. The Office will determine whether you may accept service.

If you receive a subpoena via US. regular or certified mail:

(1) Note the date and time of receipt on the envelope and keep the envelope and certified mail receipt.

(2) Personally deliver all of the documents to the Office of General Counsel as soon as possible. Prompt action on your part is required, because there is often a short time frame in which to respond to a lawsuit.

(3) Keep the contents of the subpoena confidential, because it may request information about a specific individual.

In any case you should contact the Office of General Counsel if you receive something that resembles a subpoena. It is important to let an attorney review the subpoena or court order to determine the university's rights and responsibilities for compliance. Do not ignore a subpoena, even if it addresses something you are unfamiliar with or asks for documents you do not have. Failure to respond to a subpoena could result in you or the university being held in contempt of court.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel at 202-885-3285, Fax: 202-885-3273, or Email: lawyers@american.edu.