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What is a subpoena, and how do I serve it on another party or a witness?

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is a document that directs a person to appear in person to testify or produce documents that may be used as evidence in court, including bankruptcy court. The subpoena can compel testimony or document production at a deposition, trial, evidentiary hearing, or examination under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure (FRBP) 2004. The person to whom a subpoena is directed may be a party or a nonparty to a bankruptcy contested matter or adversary proceeding.

A party not served with a subpoena need not testify at a trial or evidentiary hearing at the request of another party.

At the request of a party not represented by an attorney, the clerk of court will issue a subpoena. The requesting party must complete blanks in the subpoena and cause it to be served on the person to whom the subpoena is directed.

Subpoena rules

The requesting party is responsible for learning rules that govern subpoenas. The details of those rules are beyond the scope of this explanation. Those details include distinctions depending on the type of proceeding, the type of testimony or evidence sought, and the location of the person to whom the subpoena will be delivered.

FRBP 9016 makes Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 45 applicable to a subpoena in a bankruptcy case or adversary proceeding. FRCP Rule 45 governs obtaining and serving a subpoena. Other rules govern the events for which testimony or documents may be subpoenaed, such as for an FRBP 2004 examination, inspection of documents or other things (FRCP 34), or a deposition (FRCPs 30 and 31). Those rules are beyond the scope of this explanation.

Types of subpoenas

There are four types of subpoena forms available on the Local Forms page of the court’s website:

  • B2540, Subpoena for Rule 2004 Examination
  • B2550, Subpoena to Appear and Testify at a Hearing or Trial in a Bankruptcy Case or Adversary Proceeding
  • B2560, Subpoena to Testify at a Deposition in a Bankruptcy Case or Adversary Proceeding
  • B2570, Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information, or Objects or Permit Inspection of Premises in a Bankruptcy Case or Adversary Proceeding

Requesting subpoenas

A request for a subpoena may be submitted orally or in writing to the bankruptcy court case administrator. See the contact list for the Eugene office or Portland office for contact information for the case administrator assigned to the case or proceeding. An issued subpoena will be signed on behalf of the clerk but otherwise blank. FRCP 45(a)(3). The requesting party must complete the subpoena’s blanks before it is served.

Serving subpoenas

● Personal service

A subpoena must be delivered personally to the person whose attendance is required by the subpoena. FRCP 45(b)(1).

● The person who delivers the subpoena (the server)—

  • Must be at least 18 years of age and
  • Cannot be a party to the proceeding in which the subpoena is issued. In other words, the requesting party cannot be the server.

● Proof of service

  • The back side of a subpoena contains blanks to show proof of service. The server must fill in the blanks and sign under penalty of perjury.
  • Do not file the subpoena or proof of service unless the court orders you to do so.
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