Summary - Dealing with a subpoena to produce
documents or attend Court need not be the terrifying experience
many believe it to be – here are some practical tips.
Types of Cases in which Educational Professionals are Commonly
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
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
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
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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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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