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Federal Bar Update: Rule requires advance service of non-party document requests

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FedBarMaley-sigUnknown to some practitioners, since 1991 the current version of Fed. R. Civ. P. 45 requires advance notice to opposing parties of document subpoenas issued to non-parties. This language is somewhat buried in section (b)(1) as follows:

“(b) Service. (1) By Whom; Tendering Fees; Serving a Copy of Certain Subpoenas. Any person who is at least 18 years old and not a party may serve a subpoena. Serving a subpoena requires delivering a copy to the named person and, if the subpoena requires that person’s attendance, tendering the fees for 1 day’s attendance and the mileage allowed by law. Fees and mileage need not be tendered when the subpoena issues on behalf of the United States or any of its officers or agencies. If the subpoena commands the production of documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things or the inspection of premises before trial, then before it is served, a notice must be served on each party.” (emphasis added).

This language has only been cited in 27 reported decisions, none from an appellate court. An example of a relatively recent District decision addressing this issue is EEOC v. Rexnord Industries, LLC, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91006 (E.D. Wis. 2012), in which the court wrote:

“The EEOC argues the subpoenas should be quashed because Rexnord failed to provide adequate notice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(b)(1). Rule 45(b)(1) requires that ‘[i]f the subpoena commands the production of documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things or the inspection of premises before trial, then before it is served, a notice must be served on each party.’ While the Rule does not state how much notice is required, the 1991 Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 45 indicates that the purpose of the notice requirement is to provide opposing parties an opportunity to object to the subpoena. The parties do not cite, and this Court has not found, any Seventh Circuit authority addressing the proper amount of notice to be given under Rule 45(b)(1). However, given the purpose of the Rule is to provide the opposing party an opportunity to object to the subpoena, the purpose of the Rule in this case has been served. The subpoenas were provided to the EEOC two weeks prior to the date of compliance, during which time the EEOC voiced its objections to the subpoenas, received an extension of time to file from Rexnord, and filed a motion to quash. Because the EEOC had an opportunity to object before compliance with the subpoenas, the motion will not be denied on this ground.”

Effective Dec. 1, a number of changes will occur to Rule 45, and those will be addressed in the next column. One change in this context, however, is that this pre-service notice to parties is given prominence and its own titled subsection. Specifically, Rule 45(a)(4) will read:

“Notice to Other Parties Before Service. If the subpoena commands the production of documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things or the inspection of premises before trial, then before it is served on the person to whom it is directed, a notice and a copy of the subpoena must be served on each party.”

Notably, unlike Indiana’s Trial Rule 34(C)(1) which requires 15 days advance service, the amended federal rule still does not provide a specific time period of advance notice. Presumably, absent local rule, case management guidance or agreement among parties, “reasonableness” will be the guide.

Under the current version of Rule 45, it is common for case management plans in the Southern District of Indiana to address this issue. This author has seen plans with requirements of three-, 10- or 14-days advance notice. The Local Rules Advisory Committee for the Southern District addressed this issue in its October meeting and recommended to the court that a seven-day advance notice period be set forth in Local Rule 45-1, with exceptions for agreement of counsel or emergencies. The consensus among the committee (which includes government attorneys, private practitioners, plaintiff and defense attorneys, corporate counsel, and judicial officers) was that seven days was sufficient time for an opposing party to determine whether to raise objections, try to resolve the issue, and if necessary seek court relief. It remains to be seen what the court does with the recommendation.

In the meantime, practitioners should be aware that with the amended Rule 45 and its prominent featuring of this issue, advance service will be expected and more likely to be enforced.

Annual Federal Civil Practice Update seminar – This annual 3-hour CLE seminar for the Southern District of Indiana will be Thursday, Dec. 19 from 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. in Indianapolis, and will feature Chief Judge Richard Young, Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey, Magistrate Judge Denise LaRue, Magistrate Judge William Hussmann, Don Wall from the 7th Circuit, and Clerk Laura Briggs. Registration is open at www.theindianalawyer.com.•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters, and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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