New Pennsylvania rules regarding subpoenas to testify require reasonable advanced notice.
On April 8, 2015, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 234.1. Now, the rule requires that a subpoena must be served on a non-party witness reasonably in advance of the date the witness is expected to attend and testify.
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is an order of the court commanding a person to attend and testify at a particular time and place. It may also require the person to produce documents or things which are under the possession, custody or control of that person. 231 Pa. Code § 234.1
Current Rule 234.3 Notice to Attend and Notice to Produce, states that a party witness shall be served notice reasonably in advance of the date they are required to appear. The old Rule 243.1 was silent on when an non-party witness must receive their notice.
This was cause for concern, because a person who is aware of the case is provided with reasonable notice, while a person who may have no advanced knowledge, but is named as a witness prior to trial, may not have received reasonable notice to appear. This can have an impact on witnesses such as landlords, business partners of parties, employers, and any witness who can’t just drop everything and show up for court at a moments notice.
While no one looks forward to having to come to court and testify, it is surely less difficult when reasonable notice is given and the witness can adjust his or her schedule accordingly. In addition, as attorneys, we certainly don’t want to have an angry witness who was subpoenaed at the last minute get on the stand and decide they no longer wish to be helpful to our case.
While the rule has changed, and now requires reasonable notice, anyone who is subpoenaed is still required to supply information that is requested in conjunction with that subpoena. Any documents or other information listed must be provided to the attorney who is requesting them.
Be Prepared. Both lawyers and clients must be more prepared when it comes to building witness lists. It is important that lawyers extensively review witness lists with their client in advance. Any late additions could be denied by the court, or the witness could be less than helpful if a reasonable time frame cannot be provided, which could damage the case depending on the value of the testimony.
For more information regarding this rule, please contact us at 610-275-0700.
Note: The information above is general; we recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content contained herein is not meant to be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for legal representation.