Alex Kohn
27 July 2012

What to do if you are Subpoenaed: Practical Advice

Alex Kohn

Partner And Chairman

Tel: 02 9233 9036

Mob : 0421 315 168


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Types of Cases in which Educational Professionals are Commonly Subpoenaed

Those involved in the administration of educational institutions, particularly schools, are often subpoenaed in a range of matters including criminal matters, family law disputes, civil disputes involving third parties and civil action against the school authority.

The educational institution may receive a subpoena to produce a document or to attend court to give evidence.

Subpoena to Produce Documents

It is important to carefully read the schedule to the subpoena which contains the list of documents required to be produced. Sometimes these subpoenas are not drafted as precisely as they should be. Educational institutions should not be required to interpret what the issuing party is requesting to be produced to the court under the subpoena.

If in doubt, contact the solicitor for the issuing party. Sometimes the subpoena is issued so widely or is so oppressive that an application needs to be made to the court to set it aside. In that case legal advice should be sought.

If additional time has not been provided in which to supply the documents, an approach should be made to the solicitor for the issuing party for additional time. There is often no particular relevance to the date by which the documents are to be produced to the court and the solicitor for the issuing party may therefore be content to grant additional time to answer the subpoena.

Subpoena to Attend Court to Give Evidence

The first thing to check when receiving a subpoena to attend court is to ascertain the date of the court appearance and location of the court.

As an educational professional, you may be able to remain at school on standby rather than sitting outside the court room waiting your turn, which may not occur for a number of hours or even days. Most solicitors are content to allow school witnesses to remain on standby provided they attend court on a few hours notice when required.

What to Expect in the Court Room

There are a few golden rules of giving evidence when you are actually in the witness box:

  • Listen carefully to the question.
  • Only answer the question being asked.
  • Only deal with what you know (eg heard or saw).
  • Do not guess what may have happened.
  • Do not think you must necessarily know the answer to every question.
  • If you do not know the answer, just say so.
  • If you do not understand the question, say so and ask for it to be repeated or clarified.
  • Do not argue with the barrister asking you the question.
  • Remember that you as the representative of the educational institution will generally have no vested interest in the outcome of the case.
  • Do not put yourself in a position where you might be seen to be favouring one party over the other.
  • Your role is to give your honest and best evidence to assist the court in arriving at its determination of the matter.


Attending court to give evidence or responding to a subpoena need not be the frightening task many perceive it to be. If the above practical tips are followed, you should feel confident giving evidence or producing the correct documents to the court in answer to the subpoena.

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