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Motion to Quash a Subpoena

March 20, 2024

Proper subpoena services in California require an understanding of the legal requirements to keep the subpoena valid and also obtain the sought-after testimony or documents. If there’s an error in the content or in the service of the subpoena, the recipient may file a motion to quash the subpoena. But with adequate knowledge and proper preparation, you can avoid quash motions and obtain the necessary evidence requested by your subpoena to advance your claims.

To make sure your subpoena service is compliant and successful, you must understand the common legal grounds for a motion to quash a subpoena and how to handle it. However, a professional process server can help you prepare and serve your subpoena the right way to ensure it follows all the necessary rules of service.

If you’re an attorney who needs to send subpoenas without legal complications, we at On-Call Legal want to help you make the process as easy and fast as possible. Our certified process servers will help you deliver anytime nationwide. Schedule a free consultation with us to discuss your subpoena service.

This blog covers everything you need to know about a motion to quash a subpoena, its implications, and how attorneys can avoid it.

What is a Motion To Quash a Subpoena Service in California?

What is a Motion To Quash a Subpoena Service in California?

In California, a motion to quash a subpoena service is a legal request made to a court to invalidate or cancel a previously issued subpoena. When a motion to quash is filed, the court must review the motion, consider any responses from other parties, and schedule a hearing to discuss the matter further. After reviewing the arguments and evidence, the court will decide whether to grant or deny the motion to quash the subpoena.

If the court agrees with the motion, it may quash (cancel) the subpoena entirely and the party or entity will not be required to comply with its demands. In some cases, the court may modify the subpoena to limit its scope or the burden it imposes on the party to whom it was issued. If the motion is denied, the subpoena remains in effect, and the party or entity must comply with its requirements or face possible penalties, such as contempt of court.

How long do you have to file a motion to quash a subpoena in California?

The rules regarding the timeframe for filing a motion to quash a subpoena in California are primarily found in the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP). According to Section 1985.3 of the CCP, notice of a motion to quash or modify a subpoena duces tecum must be served on the witness and the deposition officer at least 5 days before the date set for production of the subpoenaed records.

How to Quash a Subpoena 

Responding to Quash Motions: 7 Strategic Steps for Attorneys

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) Rule 45: Regulates subpoenas in federal civil proceedings enabling the service of subpoena, responding to a subpoena, as well as exceptions to quash or modify them. Every state has its own legal and institutional framework for serving subpoenas, which can be different from federal subpoena rules and from state to state.

There are many reasons to receive a Subpoena but it can always be unsettling. If you don’t agree with the subpoena or it seems unreasonable or burdensome, there are legitimate methods to challenge, or “quash,” a subpoena. 

In the cases of insufficient proof, excessive hardships or expense imposed on the person who is being subpoenaed, as well as the subpoena for privileged information can be reasons a subpoena may be quashed.

First, you should carefully consider the details of the subpoena after you receive it, focusing on the deadline, the legal authority giving it and the amount of the requested information. Take time to look over the subpoena along with your lawyer to see the possible issues or basis of quashing the subpoena. An attorney can help assess the validity of the subpoena and the feasibility of quashing it.

Obtain all the evidence required and have a clear understanding of the legal arguments that relate to your motion, the preparation will improve your chance of obtaining the desired outcome.

Your Attorney will file your motion in the court that issued the subpoena while informing all parties involved of your request. This legal paper also will show why the subpoena is unenforceable, through laws, precedents, and the unique reasons relating to your case. It is usually an action that has to be done by the deadline for compliance mentioned in the document or within a reasonable time after receiving the request. 

Your Attorney must also send a copy of the motion to the party that issued the subpoena and interested parties in the case as well.

The court will typically schedule a hearing to consider the motion to quash. During this hearing, both sides will have the opportunity to present their arguments, and the judge will make a decision. If your motion to quash is denied, you’ll need to comply with the subpoena or face possible legal consequences. If granted, the subpoena will be voided, relieving you of the obligation to respond.

Sometimes, it may be more strategic or feasible to seek to modify the subpoena or negotiate with the issuing party rather than quash it outright.

Common Grounds for Motion to Quash Subpoenas in California

Common Grounds for Motion to Quash Subpoenas in California

The grounds for filing a motion to quash subpoenas can vary depending on the nature of the case and the type of subpoena issued. As an attorney, you need to understand these reasons to help you avoid them while preparing or serving subpoenas. The most common reasons include:

  • Inadequate Service: A legitimate subpoena needs to be served in accordance with the guidelines established by California law. Issues like not providing enough notice or not delivering the subpoena correctly are examples of improper service.
  • Overbroad or Too Burdensome: Often what makes a subpoena invalid is its requests for the production of documents or information that is unduly extensive in scope. This can result in the subpoena becoming partially invalid. If the motion places an excessive burden on the person or organization it is aimed against, the receiver can also object to it. This might include requests that are vague or difficult to generate, that ask for an excessive quantity of information, or that do not define exactly what information is wanted.
  • Irrelevance: If the data or records that the subpoena requests are not pertinent to the case, the receiver may submit a move to quash the subpoena. Evidence must be relevant to the case at hand in order to be admitted into court. As a result, if a subpoena requests material that would not be necessary to support or refute a major contention in the case, it may be dismissed.
  • Privilege: A move to quash may also be justified by requesting information that is shielded by a legal privilege, such as the spousal privilege, doctor-patient confidentiality, or attorney-client privilege. Generally speaking, privileged material cannot be disclosed unless the privilege has been waived or a special circumstance exists.
  • Violation of Constitutional or Privacy Rights: The receiver may submit a petition to quash if the subpoena violates any of the person or entity’s constitutional rights, including the right to privacy or the prohibition against self-incrimination. For example, if the subpoena asks for personally identifiable information that the subject is unwilling to provide, they may submit a move to dismiss it.
  • Lack of Jurisdiction: When the court or organization issuing the subpoena does not have the appropriate jurisdiction over the person or organization they are requesting information from, this is another frequent cause for a move to quash. This can be the result of additional jurisdictional issues or the intended beneficiary not living in the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Failing to Pay Witness Fees: The party issuing the subpoena may be obligated to reimburse the witness for their time and travel costs if the subpoena calls for them to appear at a deposition, hearing, or trial. The subpoena may be quashed if this is not done.

Serving Subpoenas: How to Prepare Subpoenas to Avoid Quash Motions

How to Prepare Subpoenas to Avoid Quash Motions

To prepare subpoenas effectively and minimize the risk of facing a motion to quash, you need to adhere to legal standards, be precise in your requests, and consider the rights and burdens of the parties involved. Let’s consider some key steps and considerations to ensure your subpoena is properly prepared and less likely to be challenged.

Understand the Legal Requirements: Research and understand both the federal and California state rules governing subpoenas. Pay special attention to those related to service, notice, and the content of the subpoena. Make sure your subpoena complies with all relevant laws and court rules.

Clearly Specify the Required Information: Make sure the subpoena specifies exactly what documents, testimony, or evidence is required. Be as clear and detailed as possible to avoid ambiguity and to ensure that the recipient understands the requests.

Request Only Relevant Information: Make sure that the subpoena only requests information that is directly relevant to the case in view. The recipient may have a legal reason to file a motion to quash if your request is irrelevant to the case.

Consider the Burden on the Respondent: Avoid making requests that are unduly burdensome or costly for the respondent to fulfill. Consider the effort and expense involved in complying with your subpoena and whether similar information can be obtained through less burdensome means.

Provide Adequate Notice: Give the recipient sufficient time to comply with the subpoena. Short notice can lead to motions to quash on the basis of insufficient time to respond or prepare. Providing adequate notice not only reduces the likelihood of a quash motion but also demonstrates good faith in the discovery process.

Include Required Fees: If the subpoena requires someone to attend a deposition, hearing, or trial, include any required witness fees and travel expenses. Failing to do so can be grounds for a motion to quash.

Ensure Proper Service: Find out how a subpoena is legally served in California, the required timelines, and how to prove proper service. You can explore alternative methods to personal service, such as service by mail for electronically stored information, substitute service, etc. However, keep in mind that certain consumer records (such as business records, payroll records, personnel records, attendance records, employment records, and corporate tax documents) or personal records (such as psychiatric medical records, and prior insurance records), may require specific procedures for proper service. As an attorney, the best way to make sure your subpoena is served properly is to engage a professional process server with a track record of successful proper services.

The Legal and Strategic Implications of Quash Motions

The Legal and Strategic Implications of Quash Motions

Filing a motion to quash a subpoena can have both legal and strategic implications in a case. These implications can affect the outcome of legal proceedings, influence negotiations, and impact the parties’ rights and obligations.

Legal Implications

A motion to quash can lead to delays in the litigation process. The court must review and decide on the motion, which can slow down the discovery phase and push back deadlines. If the motion is successful, it can limit the scope of discovery by preventing one party from obtaining admissible evidence that could be crucial to their case, potentially weakening their position.

Also, decisions on motions to quash can set legal precedents within the case regarding what types of discovery requests are permissible. This can shape the conduct of both parties in future discovery efforts. Moreover, if a party is found to have issued or objected to a subpoena without a reasonable basis, the court might impose sanctions. Such sanctions may include fines or orders to pay the opposing party’s legal fees related to the motion.

Strategic Implications

Successfully quashing a subpoena, or even just threatening to do so, can give a party leverage in negotiations or settlement discussions. It can signal the strength of one’s position or willingness to strongly defend against potential excessiveness.

By limiting the scope of discovery through a motion to quash, a party can control how much information is disclosed and potentially protect sensitive or proprietary information from becoming public or falling into competitors’ hands.

Furthermore, the process of defending against a motion to quash or pursuing one can be costly. Parties might use the threat of additional legal costs as a strategic tool to encourage settlement or to dissuade the party seeking the information from pursuing overly broad discovery.

For cases that involve sensitive information or high-profile parties, how discovery disputes are handled can impact public perception. A motion to quash can be part of a strategy to protect a party’s reputation or to keep certain details confidential, such as the plaintiff’s medical records.

Partnering with Subpoena Service Providers

Avoiding motions to quash is important because these motions can slow down your legal proceeding, make it more expensive, and create extra work for you and your client. By putting in the effort to prepare carefully and sticking to the rules, you as attorneys can keep things moving smoothly and focus on winning the case for your clients.

On-Call Legal is the preferred process server for attorneys in California. We’re committed to making the process smooth and compliant for you. We understand how important time is to your case; that’s why we offer same-day delivery to be sure your subpoena gets to the recipient without wasting time. Book a free call with us today to get started.

On-demand legal services with arranging services from eFiling to organizing and preparing your subpoena for records and/or personal appearance and much more.