How Can I Avoid Obeying A Subpoena to Testify in a Lawsuit?
A lawyer has authority to issue a subpoena. Generally, the scope of discovery is broad and allows the other party to seek information that may lead to the introduction of relevant evidence. The court may limit the scope of discovery if it determines that the burden, expense, or intrusiveness of that discovery clearly outweighs the likelihood that the information sought will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
A party served with a discovery request may object to the request and ask the court for a protective order to limit or deny the request if it is irrelevant, overbroad, unduly burdensome, or intended for purposes of delay, expense, or harassment.
The court, by a motion made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance, to (1) quash or modify the subpoena if it is unreasonable and oppressive or (2) condition denial of the motion upon the advancement by the person in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or tangible things.
Please see the following MA Rules of Civil Procedure:
RULE 45. SUBPOENA
(a) For Attendance of Witnesses; Form; Issuance.
Every subpoena shall be issued by the clerk of court, by a notary public, or by a justice of the peace, shall state the name of the court and the title of the action, and shall command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at a time and place therein specified. The clerk, notary public, or justice of the peace shall issue a subpoena, or a subpoena for the production of documentary evidence, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall fill it in before service.
(b) For Production of Documentary Evidence.
A subpoena May also command the person to whom it is directed to produce the books, papers, documents, or tangible things designated therein; but the court, upon motion made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, May (1) quash or modify the subpoena if it is unreasonable and oppressive or (2) condition denial of the motion upon the advancement by the person in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or tangible things.
A subpoena May be served by any person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein shall be made by delivering a copy thereof to such person, or by exhibiting it and reading it to him, or by leaving a copy at his place of abode; and by tendering to him the fees for one day's attendance and the mileage allowed by law. When the subpoena is issued on behalf of the United States or the Commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, or an officer, or agency of either, fees and mileage need not be tendered.
(d) Subpoena for Taking Deposition; Place of Examination.
(1) No subpoena for the taking of a deposition shall be issued prior to the service of a notice to take the deposition.
The subpoena May command the person to whom it is directed to produce and permit inspection and copying of designated books, papers, documents, or tangible things which constitute or contain evidence relating to any of the matters within the scope of the examination permitted by these rules, but in that event the subpoena will be subject to the provisions of Rule 26(c) and subdivision (b) of this rule.
A deposition subpoena upon a party which commands the production of documents or things must give the party deponent at least thirty days for compliance after service thereof. Such subpoena shall not require compliance of a defendant within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint on that defendant. The court May allow a shorter or longer time.
The person to whom the subpoena is directed May within 10 days after the service thereof or on or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance if such time is less than 10 days after service, serve upon the attorney designated in the subpoena written objection to inspection or copying of any or all of the designated materials. If objection is made, the party serving the subpoena shall not be entitled to inspect and copy the materials except pursuant to an order of the court from which the subpoena was issued. The party serving the subpoena May if objection has been made, move upon notice to the deponent for an order at any time before or during the taking of the deposition.
(2) Unless the court orders otherwise, a resident of this Commonwealth shall not be required to attend an examination at a place more than 50 airline miles distant from either his residence, place of employment, or place of business, whichever is nearest to the place to which he is subpoenaed. A non-resident of the Commonwealth when served with a subpoena within the Commonwealth May be required to attend only in that county wherein he is served, or within 50 airline miles of the place of service, or at such other convenient place as is fixed by an order of court.
(e) Subpoena for a Hearing or Trial.
At the request of any party subpoenas for attendance at a hearing or trial shall be issued by any of the persons directed in subdivision (a) of this rule. A subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial May be served at any place within the Commonwealth.
Failure by any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon him May be deemed a contempt of the court in which the action is pending.
RULE 26. GENERAL PROVISIONS GOVERNING DISCOVERY
(a) Discovery Methods.
Parties May obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods except as otherwise provided in Rule 30(a) and Rule 30A(a), (b): depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property, for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission. Unless the court orders otherwise, or unless otherwise provided in these rules, the frequency of use of these methods is not limited.
(b) Scope of Discovery.
Unless otherwise limited by order of the court in accordance with these rules, the scope of discovery is as follows:
(1) In General. Parties May obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
(2) Insurance Agreements. A party May obtain discovery of the existence and contents of any insurance agreement under which any person carrying on an insurance business May be liable to satisfy part or all of a judgment which May be entered in the action or to indemnify or reimburse for payments made to satisfy the judgment. Information concerning the insurance agreement is not by reason of disclosure admissible in evidence at trial. For purposes of this paragraph, an application for insurance shall not be treated as part of an insurance agreement.
(3) Trial Preparation: Materials. Subject to the provisions of subdivision (b)(4) of this rule, a party May obtain discovery of documents and tangible things otherwise discoverable under subdivision (b)(1) of this Rule and prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or by or for that other party's representative (including his attorney, consultant, surety, indemnitor, insurer, or agent) only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of his case and that he is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means. In ordering discovery of such materials when the required showing has been made, the court shall protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative of a party concerning the litigation.
A party May obtain without the required showing a statement concerning the action or its subject matter previously made by that party. Upon request, a person not a party May obtain without the required showing a statement concerning the action or its subject matter previously made by that person. If the request is refused, the person May move for a court order. The provisions of Rule 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion. For purposes of this paragraph, a statement previously made is (A) a written statement signed or otherwise adopted or approved by the person making it, or (B) a stenographic, mechanical, electrical, or other recording, or a transcription thereof, which is a substantially verbatim recital of an oral statement by the person making it and contemporaneously recorded.
(4) Trial Preparation: Experts. Discovery of facts known and opinions held by experts, otherwise discoverable under the provisions of subdivision (b)(1) of this Rule and acquired or developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial, May be obtained only as follows:
(A) (i) A party May through interrogatories require any other party to identify each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial, to state the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, and to state the substance of the facts and opinions to which the expert is expected to testify and a summary of the grounds for each opinion. (ii) Upon motion, the court May order further discovery by other means, subject to such restrictions as to scope and such provisions, pursuant to subdivision (b)(4)(C) of this rule, concerning fees and expenses as the court May deem appropriate.
(B) A party May discover facts known or opinions held by an expert who has been retained or specially employed by another party in anticipation of litigation or preparation for trial and who is not expected to be called as a witness at trial, only as provided in Rule 35(b) or upon a showing of exceptional circumstances under which it is impracticable for the party seeking discovery to obtain facts or opinions on the same subject by other means.
(C) Unless manifest injustice would result, (i) the court shall require that the party seeking discovery pay the expert a reasonable fee for time spent in responding to discovery under subdivisions (b)(4)(A)(ii) and (b)(4)(B) of this rule; and (ii) with respect to discovery obtained under subdivision (b)(4)(A)(ii) of this Rule the court May require, and with respect to discovery obtained under subdivision (b)(4)(B) of this Rule the court shall require, the party seeking discovery to pay the other party a fair portion of the fees and expenses reasonably incurred by the latter party in obtaining facts and opinions from the expert.
(5) Claims of Privilege or Protection of Trial Preparation Materials: Privilege Log. When a party withholds information otherwise discoverable under these rules by claiming that it is privileged or subject to protection as material prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial, the party shall make the claim expressly and, without revealing information that is privileged or protected, shall prepare a privilege log containing the following information: the respective author(s) and sender(s) if different; the recipient(s); the date and type of document, written communication or thing not produced; and in general terms, the subject matter of the withheld information. By written agreement of the party seeking the withheld information and the party holding the information or by court order, a privilege log need not be prepared or may be limited to certain documents, written communications, or things.
(c) Protective Orders.
Upon motion by a party or by the person from whom discovery is sought, and for good cause shown, the court in which the action is pending or alternatively, on matters relating to a deposition, the court in the county or judicial district, as the case May be, where the deposition is to be taken May make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including one or more of the following: (1) that the discovery not be had; (2) that the discovery May be had only on specified terms and conditions, including a designation of the time or place; (3) that the discovery May be had only by a method of discovery other than that selected by the party seeking discovery; (4) that certain matters not be inquired into, or that the scope of the discovery be limited to certain matters; (5) that discovery be conducted with no one present except persons designated by the court; (6) that a deposition after being sealed be opened only by order of the court; (7) that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be disclosed or be disclosed only in a designated way; (8) that the parties simultaneously file specified documents or information enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the court.
If the motion for a protective order is denied in whole or in part, the court may, on such terms and conditions as are just, order that any party or person provide or permit discovery. The provisions of Rule 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.
(d) Sequence and Timing of Discovery.
Unless the court upon motion, for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice, orders otherwise, methods of discovery May be used in any sequence and the fact that a party is conducting discovery, whether by deposition or otherwise, shall not operate to delay any other party's discovery.
(e) Supplementation of Responses.
A party who has responded to a request for discovery with a response that was complete when made is under no duty to supplement his response to include information thereafter acquired, except as follows:
(1) A party is under a duty seasonably to supplement his response with respect to any question directly addressed to (A) the identity and location of persons having knowledge of discoverable matters, and (B) the identity of each person expected to be called as an expert witness at trial, the subject matter on which he is expected to testify, and the substance of his testimony.
(2) A party is under a duty seasonably to amend a prior response if he obtains information upon the basis of which (A) he knows that the response was incorrect when made, or (B) he knows that the response though correct when made is no longer true and the circumstances are such that a failure to amend the response is in substance a knowing concealment.
(3) A duty to supplement responses May be imposed by order of the court, agreement of the parties, or at any time prior to trial through new requests for supplementation of prior responses.
Amended December 16, 1980, effective January 1, 1981; amended effective July 1, 1996; amended effective April 1, 2008.