Monday, June 30, 2008

What is a Subpoena?

A Subpoena is the method by which a person is required or “compelled” to attend an official court proceeding. Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure the witness can be “commanded” to appear for a deposition, hearing or trial. However, in Texas, the Subpoena may not compel the witness to travel in excess of 150 miles from where the person resides or where the person is served. Texas also allows for the service of a Notice of Deposition when the witness is a “party” to the lawsuit (usually Plaintiff, Defendant, or Petitioner or Respondent in a family case), and, when served on the party or attorney, it has the same function as a subpoena. Sometimes the party issuing the Subpoena will also request that the witness bring documents with them to the Court hearing or deposition and this is usually called a Subpoena Duces Tecum.
If the witness ignores the Subpoena, then the party who compelled the witness to attend may request a Writ of Attachment, to have the Sheriff or Constable bring the witness to Court, forcibly if necessary. Alternatively, if the witness refuses to appear, the party issuing the Subpoena may file a Motion requesting that the witness be held in contempt of court. If the witness has a valid excuse, or if the Subpoena causes undue expense or burden, then the witness may file a “Motion to Quash” the subpoena or a Motion for a Protective Order.