Trust me – A subpoena doesn’t have to bite

As lawyers, we routinely receive calls from clients whose days have been abruptly interrupted by the service of a subpoena.

A subpoena normally requires a witness to appear for a deposition at a lawyer’s office or to testify at a court hearing or trial.

When calling, the client often sounds confused, panicked, or even angry. This is completely understandable, since this may be the client’s first interaction with the court system other than jury duty.

Rollercoasters of emotions can also be caused by a scheduling conflict with the scheduled appearance date, the client’s not knowing why he/she is being subpoenaed, and the fear of testifying under oath.

If you are served with a subpoena, the first rule is to not panic. Your FOS attorney is poised to explain the situation to you and help you through the process.

First, carefully read the subpoena to determine when and where you are being ordered to appear.

Second, determine whether you can make the appearance based on your schedule. It is far easier to attempt to reschedule a deposition scheduled at a lawyer’s office than to reschedule testifying in a criminal trial in federal court.

Either way, instead of cancelling a six month old doctor’s appointment, missing your child’s first violin solo, or skipping a two-year planned family vacation, your FOS attorney will call the lawyer issuing the subpoena to discuss your scheduling concerns.

Third, if you are able to attend the scheduled court appearance or deposition, you may still need to request time off from your employer to attend it.

Fourth, unless your attorney advises you not to, go. If you have been properly served and do not appear, the court may hold you in contempt.

Subpoenas issued in Wisconsin court proceedings include intimidating but accurate warnings.

The warning states: “Failure to appear may result in punishment for contempt which may include monetary penalties, imprisonment and other sanctions.” See § 885.02(1), Wis. Stats.

Therefore, despite your personal feelings about the case or potential scheduling issues, under no circumstances should you ignore the subpoena. Doing nothing will get you in trouble.

If you, a family member, or an employee are served with a subpoena, please call the FOS litigation team to help you assess your legal obligations.