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 (OGC) 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.
The OGC is responsible for responding to subpoenas served on faculty members, university officials, and staff in the course and scope of their employment.
Employees, who receive a subpoena, summons, complaint, or other legal papers relating to their University work should:
- Note the date and time of receipt on the envelope and keep the envelope and certified mail receipt.
- Deliver all the documents to the Office of General Counsel as soon as possible. Prompt action is required because there is usually only a short time frame for filing a response to a newly filed lawsuit.
- Keep the contents of the legal document confidential.
If someone appears with a legal document and attempts to serve you with it in connection with your work at the University:
- Do not accept any document the person tries to hand you.
- Direct the person to the Office of General Counsel at 3201 New Mexico Ave., NW, Suite 270. OGC attorneys are authorized to accept service of legal papers for the University.
- If the person does not comply, call our office immediately (202-885- 3285) and ask to speak with an attorney. OGC will determine whether you may accept service.
From time to time, law enforcement and other government agencies may arrive on campus (with or without notice) or contact faculty and staff for the purposes of obtaining University information or documents.
In response to these visits or requests, faculty and staff should take the following actions:
- Ask to see the person’s government credentials and a copy of their business card. If the government official does not provide a business card or declines a request to copy their identification, you should document the person’s name and title, agency, phone number, email, and any other contact information, date and time of visit and the information or action being requested.
- Inform the government official that you are contacting the Office of General Counsel to review the person’s request and that you are not authorized to comply with the government request until you have received instructions from the Office of General Counsel.
- Immediately contact the Office of General Counsel at (202)885-3285 for further assistance.
- If the agent refuses to wait before executing the search warrant, you should still contact the OGC. You should contact the OGC 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.