Many staff will understand the necessity of confidentiality and privacy regarding the personal information of their colleagues and students. However, staff members may be compelled to provide certain information to a court if they have been properly served with subpoenas.
A subpoena is a legal document that the Court issues, usually at the request of one of the parties to a court matter. Subpoenas are used to obtain relevant information where that information is not available another way.
There are three types of subpoenas:
- Subpoena to produce documents only. This is the most common type of subpoena used and requires the person receiving the subpoena to provide copies of documents requested by the subpoena to the Court
- Subpoena to give evidence. This is a requirement that a person attend the Court to give oral evidence in person.
- Subpoena to produce documents and give evidence. This is used in circumstances where it is suspected that there are documents, and that there is further information that a person has that is not recorded in documentary format.
If you receive a subpoena the first step in response should be for you to obtain legal advice if you are unsure of your obligations, especially where you have legitimate concerns with releasing the information. This is because a failure to comply with a subpoena is tantamount to not complying with a Court Order and has extremely serious consequences. It can include a warrant for the arrest of the named person, and/or an order that the named person pay the costs incurred by their non-compliance with the subpoena.
However, someone that is required to comply with a subpoena can defend such a scenario, but it is important to get specific legal advice as soon as possible. A person with a sufficient interest in a subpoena may object (in writing) to the subpoena in part or in whole. The sorts of relief available if a person objects to a subpoena include:
- Setting aside a subpoena in whole or a part of it;
- Objection to the production of a document required by the subpoena;
- Seeking further conduct money relating to a loss or expense relating to the subpoena; and
- Restricting who has the ability to view and/or copy documents produced under subpoena.
It is important to note that different Courts have different rules and procedures with respect to subpoenas, hence it is imperative that legal advice be sought if you are unsure of your options or obligations.
For more information regarding subpoenas