Serving, Issuing, and Quashing a Rule 45 Federal Subpoena – Oh My!

In 2013, Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was amended to allow for nationwide service of process. In other words, Rule 45(b)(2) now provides that “[a] subpoena may be served at any place within the United States.” In 2013, Rule 45 was further amended to clarify from which district court a subpoena must be issued. While prior law required a subpoena to be issued from the district court where the deposition or document production would be compelled, Rule 45 now provides that a subpoena must be issued from the court where the action is pending.

For example, if a party to a case, which is pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks to serve a Rule 45 subpoena on a party or non-party who resides in Houston, Texas for a deposition to take place in a corporate office in Houston, Texas, Rule 45(a)(2) now requires that the subpoena be issued from the Eastern District of Louisiana. But, what if the party or non-party served with the subpoena seeks to quash it? In that case, Rule 45 provides that the party or non-party must file a motion to quash in “the court for the district where compliance is required.” Referencing the above example, although that subpoena was issued from the Eastern District of Louisiana (where the case is pending), the party or non-party who seeks to quash the subpoena must do so in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas – Houston Division, as that is the district court where compliance was required (the corporate office in Houston, Texas).

It is critical that a party/non-party be aware of the caveats of Rule 45, as issuing a subpoena from, and/or moving to quash a subpoena in, the wrong district court can cause a party/non-party much time, trouble, and expense.

Megan T. Jaynes