Simple Subpoenas 1.0

Friday, 15 March 2013 19:53 Written by  Bill MacMinn

Why does it seem to take so long to solve simple problems?  For years litigators have had to resort to the use of the cumbersome and needlessly expensive procedures to compel the attendance of a witness in interstate litigation pending in state court.  The problem arises, of course, where the testimony of a witness located in Pennsylvania is needed in connection with litigation pending in another state, or when the witness is located out of state and his testimony is needed in connection with a Pennsylvania case. 

In 2007, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws promulgated the Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (the “Act”) which simplified the entire process.  In October 2012 the Act was adopted in Pennsylvania and became effective December 24. It is codified at 42 Pa.C.S. § 5331.

The Act requires the Prothonotary to issue a Pennsylvania subpoena, upon the submission of a foreign subpoena.  The Pennsylvania subpoena must incorporate the terms used in the foreign subpoena and provide the names and contact information for all counsel of record and unrepresented parties in the foreign proceeding.  Service and enforcement of the subpoena are governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. 

Need to subpoena a witness in another state for a Pennsylvania case?  If the witness is located in any of the thirty two states and territories that have adopted the Act, the procedure is just as simple.  Issue a Pennsylvania subpoena; send it to your local counsel on the ground in the discovery state and off you go.  The Act is the law in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.  It is on the legislative agenda in New Jersey.

That’s all there is to it! In the words of the Commission:

The Act requires minimal judicial oversight and eliminates the need for obtaining a commission or local counsel in the discovery state, letters rogatory, or the filing of a miscellaneous action during the discovery phase of litigation.  Discovery authorized by the subpoena is to comply with the rules of state in which it occurs.  Furthermore, motions to quash, enforce, or modify a subpoena issued pursuant to the Act shall be brought in and governed by the rules the discovery state.

The solution is so simple one wonders why it took so long to come up with it and, once the Act became available, why it took five years to enact it in Pennsylvania?  Enact it we have and litigators, their clients and the Courts will benefit from its simplicity.  

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 20:48
Bill MacMinn

Bill MacMinn

Bill concentrates his practice in the area of litigation, including Commercial Litigation, Personal Injury, Products Liability, Employment Litigation, Estate Litigation, Real Estate, and Arbitration. He represents a broad spectrum of individuals, corporations and institutions in commercial, employment litigation, collection, construction and personal injury actions. He has expertise in a wide variety of venues in Bucks and surrounding counties, and in the United States District Court. Bill also has extensive experience in Alternate Dispute Resolution forums, including participation in the American Arbitration Association, private arbitrations and private court systems. He is frequently appointed as arbitrator.

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