A subpoena is a document a party in a lawsuit can use to require a person to:
- testify at a trial, hearing, or deposition to answer questions under oath
- produce or bring documents or other items to a hearing
- provide copies of documents or electronically stored information
- allow inspection of a place
A subpoena must be signed by a court clerk, a Vermont magistrate, or a Vermont attorney before it is served. An unrepresented party must have a court clerk sign a subpoena.
Subpoenas can be complicated. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about ways to get legal help.
Subpoenas in civil cases are governed by Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 45. (choose Vermont Court Rules from the box at the right, then scroll down to Rules of Civil Procedure)
- Print a blank subpoena form found at the bottom of this web page, or go to a courthouse to ask for the form.
- Take the blank form to the court handling your case for a court employee to sign. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney can sign the subpoena.
- Once the form is signed, fill it out to describe what you want the person receiving the subpoena to do, such as come to a hearing or give you copies of documents.
- Make copies. You will need copies for:
- for the person you are subpoenaing,
- for the other party in the case, and
- for your records.
- Have a copy of the subpoena delivered in person to the person you are subpoenaing.
You may not serve the subpoena yourself. Anyone else over 18 and who is not a party in the case may deliver the subpoena. They must fill out the Return of Service section of the form and sign it.
If the subpoena requires the person to attend a hearing, you must pay them the witness fee and mileage reimbursement. The witness fee and mileage reimbursement must be paid at the same time the subpoena is served on the witness.
- Serve a copy of the subpoena to the other parties in the case before or at the same time as serving the subpoenaed person.
If the subpoenaed person is a witness, you also have the option of serving the other parties after the witness is served.
The person who served the subpoena must fill out the Return of Service section of the original form. You must then file the completed subpoena form with the court.
After a subpoena is served, the person being subpoenaed must usually do what it says. However, if the person has good reason to object to the subpoena, they may file a “motion to quash” with the court and send a copy to all parties to the case.
If the subpoena is asking them to produce documents or allow an inspection, instead of filing a motion they can within 14 days send the party who issued the subpoena a written objection to the request. The person who issued the subpoena can then file a motion asking the court to decide whether the subpoena should be enforced. Ignoring a subpoena can lead to sanctions from the court, including potential arrest.
There is no fee to ask for a subpoena.
If you are asking someone to appear at a hearing, you must pay them a witness fee and mileage reimbursement for the cost of their travel to and from the hearing.