In business litigation and in all other types of civil litigation, lawyers for parties to the litigation have the ability to issue requests for documents and information through the process of sending subpoenas. A subpoena is a written document containing various information about the civil case that is sent to a person or business demanding documents that might be legally useful in the case. Subpoenas generally go to third parties who are not involved in the pending litigation. Examples include:
- A subpoena to a cell phone service provider requesting copies of text messages
- A subpoena to a medical provider seeking copies of medical records
- A subpoena to an architect seeking copies of blueprints, contracts and construction documents
Note that, as between the parties actually involved in the litigation, other types of legal papers are exchanged seeking information and documents in the possession and control of the parties.
Note also that Motions To Quash are also used in criminal law proceedings and can be directed to subpoenas and also to legal documents called “warrants.”
One method of responding to a subpoena is to file what is known as a “Motion to Quash.” A “motion” is a written document directed to the judge in the case asking the judge to take some action for the reasons stated in the motion. “Quash” is a legal term meaning to terminate, reject or void. So, with respect to a subpoena, a Motion to Quash is a request that the judge terminate or void the subpoena (in whole or part) for the reasons given.
A Motion to Quash should be filed when the recipient of the subpoena does not want to comply with the request to provide documents or information.
In most states and under federal law, there are rules of procedure for how a Motion to Quash must be submitted. For example, Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, section 536, requires that a motion to quash must be
- In writing
- Signed by the relevant person or their attorney
- Filed in open court or in the office of the clerk of court and
- Specify “distinctly the grounds on which it is based” — the section specifically states that the court “… shall hear no objection based on grounds not stated in the motion”
These are generally the requirements and methods of filing a Motion to Quash in every state and jurisdiction. Experienced business lawyers can assist in preparing a Motion to Quash and know the procedures for filing with the clerk of court or appearing before the judge to file the Motion in open court.
There are many legal reasons that can be asserted for success with a Motion to Quash. This is where a court-room tested business law firm will be needed. As just one example, a subpoena might be successful in quashing a subpoena on the grounds of privilege including attorney-client and doctor-patient privilege.