From Which Federal Court Should You Issue a Subpoena

So you have a case in federal court outside Illinois and you need to subpoena someone in Chicago. What court must issue the subpoena?

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(a)(2) addresses this:

Issued from Which Court. A subpoena must issue as follows:

(A) for attendance at a hearing or trial, from the court for the district where the hearing or trial is to be held;

(B) for attendance at a deposition, from the court for the district where the deposition is to be taken; and

(C) for production or inspection, if separate from a subpoena commanding a person’s attendance, from the court for the district where the production or inspection is to be made.

So basically this:

  • for trial or hearing, the court where the case is pending;
  • for deposition, the court where the deposition will take place (if the deposition has to take place in Chicago because the witness resides here, issue the subpoena from the Northern District of Illinois); and
  • for documents and inspection, the court where the production or inspection will happen (again, Northern District of Illinois if in Chicago).

Under FRCP 45(a)(3), the attorney who signs the subpoena can be one admitted where the case is pending, even if the subpoena is coming from a different federal court. So you probably don’t need local counsel to sign the subpoena. But recognize that any proceedings or motions regarding the subpoena may occur in the issuing court, and an appearance or filings might require local counsel and pro hac vice admittance.

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