21 Jan 24

Motions to Quash: Federal Court Procedures for Challenging Subpoenas

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Last Updated on: 21st January 2024, 10:46 pm

Motions to Quash: Federal Court Procedures for Challenging Subpoenas

Dealing with a subpoena can feel really overwhelming and confusing. I totally get it – figuring out your legal options is no fun. Just know there are options to fight back if a subpoena seems improper or overly burdensome. I wanted to give a quick rundown on motions to quash in federal court, in case you or someone you know needs some legal support.

What is a Motion to Quash?

A motion to quash is a formal request asking a federal court to withdraw or cancel a subpoena. Subpoenas are demands for someone to testify, produce documents, or provide tangible things. Motions to quash challenge subpoenas when they seem improper or overly burdensome.There are rules about what subpoenas can and can’t require. There are also limits on getting subpoenas for certain kinds of information. If a subpoena goes too far or demands more than is reasonable, you can fight back with a motion to quash.

When Can You File a Motion to Quash a Federal Subpoena?

There are a few common reasons to file a motion to quash a federal subpoena:

  • Undue Burden: The subpoena demands too much or compliance would be unreasonably expensive, time-consuming or difficult.
  • Privileged Information: The subpoena asks you to reveal privileged medical, financial or legal information.
  • Improper Service: You were not properly served with the subpoena according to federal rules.
  • Outside Geographic Scope: The subpoena requires you to comply beyond the geographic limits set by federal rules.
  • Unreasonable Time Frame: You are not given enough time to reasonably gather everything demanded.

If a subpoena suffers from any of these defects, you can file a motion to quash. The court may modify or completely quash an improper subpoena.

What Are the Steps to File a Motion to Quash in Federal Court?

Filing a motion to quash takes time, legal knowledge and good arguments. Working with an attorney is highly recommended. But in general, you would take the following basic steps:

1. Receive and Review the Subpoena

Carefully review the subpoena to understand what is being asked of you. Note any demands that seem unreasonable, overly burdensome or improper. These will become the basis for your motion to quash.Also check if the subpoena was properly served according to Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure .

2. Draft Your Motion

The motion itself should:

  • Identify the parties and the case number of the litigation connected to the subpoena.
  • State all the grounds for quashing or modifying the subpoena with supporting facts and law.
  • Request that the court issue an order quashing or modifying the subpoena.

3. File Supporting Memorandum

In a separate memorandum, flesh out the legal arguments supporting your motion, citing case law and the federal rules.

4. Send Copies to All Parties

Provide copies of your motion and memorandum to the attorney who issued the subpoena and all other parties.

5. Wait for Potential Objections

The issuing attorney has 14 days to file an opposition explaining why your motion should be denied. Be prepared to file a reply countering any opposition.

6. Request a Hearing

Ask the court clerk to schedule a hearing so you can make arguments supporting your motion. The judge may simply rule on the briefs instead.

7. Attend Hearing and Await Ruling

If a hearing is held, summarize why the subpoena is improper and should be quashed or modified. The judge will later issue an order either granting or denying your motion.

What Happens If Your Motion to Quash Is Granted or Denied?

If granted, the subpoena would be withdrawn or modified according to the judge’s order. You may not have to provide anything demanded or you may face a less burdensome subpoena.If your motion is denied, you will likely have to comply with the original subpoena as issued. Failure to comply could potentially lead to contempt charges. But an attorney may be able to negotiate modifications or appeal a denial.

Finding Legal Help with Motions to Quash

Challenging a federal subpoena is complex. Having an experienced civil litigation or appeals attorney guide you through the process is extremely valuable. They can handle drafting motions, making persuasive legal arguments, and negotiating modifications if needed.I hope this general overview gives some direction if you’re faced with an improper subpoena. Just remember – you have options to fight back and don’t have to comply with unreasonable demands. With some legal help, you may be able to get an unfair subpoena withdrawn or modified. Best of luck dealing with this stressful situation!


Articles with More Information:

Sample Motions to Quash:

Videos Discussing Motions to Quash: