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Options When Federal Subpoenas Conflict With State Laws

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Options When Federal Subpoenas Conflict With State Laws

Getting subpoenaed can be scary and confusing. You may get a subpoena from the federal government telling you to turn over documents or testify, but your state has laws protecting that information. What should you do? This article will walk through your options so you can make the best decision.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal order for you to provide documents, testify in a deposition, or appear in court as a witness. There are a few types of subpoenas:

  • A subpoena ad testificandum orders you to testify at a trial, hearing, or deposition.
  • A subpoena duces tecum orders you to produce documents or other evidence.
  • A federal subpoena comes from a federal court, agency, grand jury, or congressional committee.
  • A state subpoena comes from a state court or agency.

If you don’t comply with a subpoena, you could face civil or criminal contempt charges. But if the subpoena conflicts with state law, you may be able to challenge it.

Federal Rules on Subpoena Power

Federal courts can issue subpoenas nationwide under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 45[1]. Attorneys can also issue subpoenas from any federal court for depositions anywhere in the U.S.[1]. This expanded geographic reach is meant to make discovery easier for parties.

Federal agencies like the FTC and SEC have subpoena power for investigations[2]. Some federal subpoenas apply anywhere in the U.S., while others are limited to a geographic area.

State Laws on Subpoenas

Many states don’t limit the geographic reach of subpoenas from their courts. But others restrict subpoena power:

  • Some states limit how far a witness has to travel for a deposition or hearing.
  • Some protect medical or financial records.
  • Some prohibit “fishing expeditions” by requiring specific requests.

These laws are meant to protect resident privacy and prevent harassment.[3]

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
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Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
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2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
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2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
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2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
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2024-03-12
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2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
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divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

What To Do If You Get a Federal Subpoena

If you get a federal subpoena requesting information protected by state law, consider these options:

  1. Comply if allowed. Review the subpoena carefully and comply if state law permits it. For example, provide non-protected information.
  2. Contact the issuing party. Explain the conflict and ask to modify the subpoena request. They may agree to narrow the scope.
  3. File a motion to quash. You can file a motion to quash with the federal court arguing the subpoena violates state law. The judge may quash or modify the subpoena.[4]
  4. Get a protective order. File a motion for a protective order to block or limit the subpoena. You must show good cause.[5]

If you don’t comply with the subpoena, the other party may file a motion to compel you to comply. Be prepared to explain how the subpoena violates state law.[5]

Federal Subpoenas Often Win Over State Law

When federal and state law conflict, federal law often prevails. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution establishes federal law as “the supreme law of the land.”[6] But it depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

For example, in Facebook v. Superior Court, Facebook challenged a subpoena under California privacy law. But the court ruled that federal law allowed the subpoena in a criminal case.[4]

However, state laws are sometimes upheld. It depends on factors like:

  • Whether the state law completely blocks or just limits the subpoena
  • Whether the federal interest outweighs the state’s interest
  • Whether compliance would be overly burdensome

When possible, federal courts try to avoid direct conflicts with state law.

Get Legal Help If You Receive a Federal Subpoena

Receiving a federal subpoena conflicting with state law can be intimidating. Get help from an attorney experienced with subpoena litigation.

An attorney can advise you on the enforceability of the subpoena and represent you in filing motions. They can also negotiate modifications or alternatives to full compliance. Don’t ignore a federal subpoena – get legal help to resolve the conflict properly.


References

[1] Rule 45. Subpoena | Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | US Law – Law.Cornell.Edu

[2] Appellate Courts and Cases – Journalist’s Guide

[3] Survey of Issues Regarding Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 – U.S. Courts

[4] How to Challenge or Quash a Third-Party Subpoena in California – Bona Law

[5] Notices to Attend a Hearing and Subpoenas – famlaw_selfhelp – California Courts

[6] Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance – CRS Reports

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