21 Jan 24

Service of Process Failures: Challenging Defective Federal Subpoenas

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


A federal subpoena is a writ issued by a federal court to compel testimony or the production of evidence. For a federal subpoena to be valid, it must be properly served on the recipient according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If there are defects in the service of a federal subpoena, the recipient may file a motion to quash or modify the subpoena. Some common bases for challenging service include:

  • Improper service method (e.g. mail when personal service required)
  • Failure to tender fees for attendance and mileage
  • Lack of reasonable time to comply after date of service
  • Service outside permissible geographic area

Key Strategies for Challenging Federal Subpoenas

If you receive a defective federal subpoena, some strategies for challenging it include:

  • File a motion to quash or modify the subpoena in a timely manner
  • Clearly state the factual and legal grounds for defective service
  • Provide affidavits and other proof of improper or incomplete service
  • Argue that compliance would impose undue burden or expense
  • Request alternative relief, like additional time to comply

The court will review the motion and determine whether the service failed to follow federal rules. If the court agrees, it may quash or modify the subpoena’s requirements accordingly. Consulting with an attorney experienced in federal litigation can help craft the strongest challenge when facing a defective federal subpoena.