Primer on Subpoenas and Summons

As an employee at the University of Oregon, you may encounter a situation in which a state or federal official or private process server enters your office and asks you to accept service of a legal document. You may also receive these legal documents by mail. Typically, this legal document is either a subpoena or a summons and complaint.

Definitions

Subpoena: A subpoena is a writ or order issued by a court, officer of the court, other tribunal, or administrative agency. A subpoena generally requires a person to provide testimony (subpoena ad testificandum) and/or documents (subpoena duces tecum) in connection with a legal proceeding, such as a deposition, court hearing or a trial. A subpoena is not a lawsuit against the university or the employee. Rather, it is simply a way of summoning a person who potentially has information relevant to a case, so that the information they have can be made available for the legal proceedings.

Summons and Complaint: A summons and complaint are the documents used to initiate a lawsuit. A summons will generally be accompanied by a complaint that describes the allegations on which the lawsuit is based.

What should I do if I am served with a subpoena or summons relating to university business?

You should notify the general counsel's office immediately and provide a copy of the subpoena or summons. Please do not accept service of the subpoena or summons before contacting the general counsel's office. You should not accept a summons or subpoena that is addressed to, or on behalf of the university, department, or another individual. The general counsel's office is authorized to accept such service for the university.

  • Exception: If the subpoena or summons specifically names you, as opposed to the university or another employee, you may accept service of the subpoena or summons on your own behalf or you may make arrangements for the general counsel's office to accept service on your behalf. Regardless, you should still contact the general counsel's office immediately to determine whether service is valid and the subpoena is otherwise lawful.
     
  • Make a note of the date, time, and method of receipt (e.g., via hand delivery, by mail, by e-mail) and whether or not any payment or promise of payment was included with the document.
     
  • If you do not have explicit authority to accept service of the document, you should decline to accept service and explain to the process server that you do not have authority to accept service, that it will not be delivered to the individual or department to whom it is addressed, and that the document should be taken to the Office of the General Counsel. The relevant contact information to provide is: The Office of the General Counsel, 219 Johnson Hall, 1226 University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403; 541-346-3082.
     
  • The Office of General Counsel can assist you and your department in gathering and providing responsive documents, making any appropriate objections and, in certain cases, seeking a protective order to preserve the confidentiality of the documents requested. OGC will work in partnership with you to ensure that all related laws are complied with and that you understand your obligations under the subpoena.

An attorney or process server asks me how to serve a subpoena or summons on my office, department, or the university. What should I do?

Please explain to the individual that you are not authorized to accept service on behalf of the university and refer them to the Office of General Counsel.

Named in a summons and complaint?

If you are named individually in a lawsuit that is related to your position at the university, please contact the Office of General Counsel immediately.

What should I do if I am served with a subpoena or summons relating to non-university business?

If the matter is unrelated to the university, you do not need to contact the Office of General Counsel and you should consider contacting a personal attorney. Find referrals here.

What if I improperly or accidentally accepted service?

If you accept service of a subpoena or summons and complaint on your own behalf, receive such documents by mail or e-mail, and/or accidently accept service of such documents, please contact the Office of General Counsel immediately. These documents are often time sensitive and failure to alert the general counsel's office can result in adverse legal consequences.

What if a state or federal official is asking me for information in absence of a subpoena, public records request, etc.?

On occasion attorneys, investigators (including private investigators and federal and state officials), or insurance company representatives contact UO employees for information about the university, a student, or employee without a subpoena. If you encounter this situation, please do not disclose any information. Immediately notify the Office of General Counsel about the inquiry and we will work with the individual regarding an appropriate response.

Find more information on what to do if you are contacted by a state or federal agency.