March 12, 2014 Articles

Amendments Streamline FRCP 45 Subpoena Power

The changes to this misunderstood and misapplied rule seek to simplify and clarify collection procedures

By David C. Kent

The subpoena power of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 has long been a powerful tool for obtaining discovery and evidence from party and nonparty witnesses. Due to its technical and abstruse provisions and wording, however, Rule 45 often has been misunderstood and misapplied, fomenting disputes about whether subpoenas issued under the rule were properly issued, served, or enforced. In the words of the Federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee, the intricacies of Rule 45 were a confusing "three-ring circus."

To overcome these problems, Rule 45 was amended effective December 1, 2013, creating a more streamlined procedure to ease the collection of evidence for deposition and trial. The amended rule now simplifies and clarifies methods for issuing, serving, complying with, and enforcing subpoenas.

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