You’re a business manager, or maybe even a business owner. You work hard: your work day rarely runs from only 9 to 5; your work week usually runs longer than Monday through Friday. The last thing you need is a subpoena: who wants to get dragged into court for someone else’s dispute?
But the business gods have different plans . . . .
Your office manager calls you to say a sheriff’s deputy just served your company with a subpoena and wants to do what needs to be done. As a savvy business manager or owner, you already know that a subpoena is a court paper requiring the recipient to appear or produce information, or both, so you’re already in a position to effectively address this situation.
First Things First
First, you thank your office manager for notifying you immediately (and congratulate yourself for hiring a stellar professional and providing good training). Second, you refer to your Subpoena Policy, which is your written game plan for this situation.
The best game plan for dealing with subpoenas served on your company’s employees is to have a set of procedures to be followed. Most of the time, your company’s registered agent is the person who will be served and your registered agent will promptly notify you of the subpoena. But sometimes, an employee rather than the registered agent will be served. That’s when your company’s Subpoena Policy is important. In either case, service on a registered agent or a company employee, having a Subpoena Policy is important.
“…Just a checklist…”
The Subpoena Policy is really just a checklist. A good checklist can be easily used by employees across the board, regardless of their level within the company. The Subpoena Policy need not be a complicated checklist — the simpler it is, the better. Below is a sample policy:
- Upon receipt of the subpoena, identify the date of service of the subpoena on the company. You can do this by looking at the face of the subpoena. The deputy or process server writes the date and time of service on the first page of the subpoena.
- Identify the compliance date required by the subpoena. This can be a little trickier, as sometimes the compliance date will be a specific date, but sometimes it will be a date that you have to calculate. For example, the subpoena may require compliance by, say September 5, 2021—that’s a specifically-identified date. But often you may see a compliance date expressed as a specific number of days after service, such as ten days after the date of service of the subpoena.
- Calendar the day before the deadline as an internal deadline. That way you have an extra day built-in, in case you need more time.
- Email the subpoena to your company’s lawyer the same day the subpoena is served, if at all possible. And it should be possible since email never sleeps.
- Most critically, follow up with your company’s lawyer the next business day to discuss a written response to the subpoena. Not every situation will require a company to appear in court or for a deposition or to produce documents. But every situation requires a written response to be filed. Your company may have valid objections to the subpoena, but those must be promptly raised by your company’s lawyer or the right to raise those objections can be lost.
Avoiding Unnecessary Expense
Using a Subpoena Policy will save business managers and owners a lot of headaches. The consequences of failing to timely respond to a subpoena can be expensive. The party serving the subpoena can seek an award of attorney’s fees and costs if the subpoenaed party fails to respond by the deadline specified in the subpoena. But if you get the subpoena to your lawyer promptly, he or she may be able to obtain an extension if one is needed.
If your company needs assistance drafting a Subpoena Policy or should need representation responding to a subpoena, I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 239-344-1326.