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Amendments to Federal Rule Intended to Simplify Subpoena Process

Changes to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 governing civil subpoenas became effective December 1, 2013. The amendments attempt to simplify the federal practice for issuing, enforcing and responding to subpoenas.

Subpoenas are now issued from the court where the action is pending. Under the rule in effect before December 1, 2013, a subpoena for attendance at a hearing or trial was issued from the district court where the hearing or trial was to be held; a deposition subpoena was issued from the court for the district where the deposition would take place; and a document subpoena was issued from the district where the recipient would produce evidence or allow inspection.

The amended rule, effective December 1, 2013, provides that all subpoenas be issued from the district court where the action is pending.

Nationwide service. The amendments permit service of a subpoena at any place within the United States. However, there are geographic limitations on the place for compliance with the subpoena.

Geographic limits for subpoena recipients. Under Rule 45 effective December 1, 2013, a subpoena may compel a person to attend a hearing, trial or deposition within 100 miles of a location where the subpoenaed person resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person. A subpoena may also require compliance anywhere within the state where a person resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person if the person is a party or a party’s officer, or is being subpoenaed for trial and would not incur “substantial expense” to attend.

Subpoenas requesting documents or tangible things may only command production of documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things at a place within 100 miles where the subpoena recipient resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person. Parties often reach agreement to produce documents electronically, rendering enforcement of such subpoenas moot.

The court for the district where compliance is required continues to be the primary forum for resolving subpoena disputes. Under the amended Rule 45, the main forum for resolving motions to quash or modify a subpoena continues to be the district court for the district where compliance is required. In limited circumstances, the compliance motion can be transferred to the issuing court (the court where the action is pending).

Notice requirement. The amended rule reinforces the requirement of notice to all parties of issuance of a subpoena. Although the federal rules do not specify a time frame within which notice must be provided, the local rules for the federal district court for the southern district of Indiana requires seven days’ notice prior to service of the document subpoena or inspection on a nonparty.