How Can I Subpoena Documents?
In California, you can ask the court to order someone (other than the opposing party) to send documents to the court that might help to prove your case.
Normally you would just ask the person or organization to give copies of the documents to you. But some organizations – such as a police department, phone company, hospital or business that have books, ledgers, papers or other documents – may require a court order to release the information.
NOTE: You will not be allowed to see the documents you ask for by subpoena. The documents will be sent directly to the court in a confidential and sealed envelope. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not either you or the other side will be allowed to see the documents sent in response to a subpoena.
A “subpoena” is a court order. A specific subpoena that requires someone (other than the opposing party) to take or send documents or records to the court is called a “subpoena duces tecum.” The court form to use for this in small claims cases is the same as the form used to subpoena witnesses.
To subpoena a document
Step 1. Get and fill out your court form. Use:
- Small Claims Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Documents and Things at Trial or Hearing and Declaration (Form SC-107)
- Page 1 – Leave most of page 1 blank.
- Check 4a – if you want the person (record keeper) to appear at the hearing and bring the documents you need with him or her.
- Check 4b – if you want the record keeper to send the documents only.
- Page 2 – This page is called “Declaration in Support of Small Claims Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Document and Things at Trial or Hearing.” Fill in the whole page.
- You need to know which documents or things you want the organization to send to the court or have taken to your hearing.
- You need to know who is in charge of the documents or things you want produced in court.
- It may take a few phone calls to find the correct person. However, if you list someone on the Subpoena who has nothing to do with the documents, you may not get them. Contact the Small Claims Advisor in your area for more information on naming the correct person.
- Page 3 – Leave this blank for now. You will fill it in later.
Step 2. File the form with the court.
- Take the Subpoena (Form SC-107) to the court filing window. The clerk will look at the form and may ask you a few questions. If everything is in order, the clerk will sign and stamp the form and give the original back to you.
- Make 2 copies of the completed pages. Make one copy for your files and one copy for the record keeper.
Step 3. Give a copy (not the original) of the form to the person (record keeper) being subpoenaed at least 10 days before the court hearing.
Any adult – even you -- can hand the subpoena to the person who has possession of the documents. However, it must be by personal service. You cannot mail the subpoena to the record keeper, or use any other form of service.
NOTE 1: At the time you serve the subpoena, you have to pay the copying fees -- $25 per hour, plus $0.10 per copy for the documents you are asking for. Make a receipt for the record keeper to sign, if possible.
NOTE 2: If you are asking for records from a corporation or a limited liability company, you will name the record keeper on 4a or 4b of Form SC-107, but you may need to serve the Agent for Service Process. To learn what an Agent for Service of Process is, click here.
Step 4. Inform the court that the copy was given.
After the subpoena has been given to the person who has the documents, have the server (you or someone else) fill out page 3 of Form SC-107. This page is called: “Proof of Service of Small Claims Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Documents and Things at Trial or Hearing and Declaration.”
- Make a copy of page 3 for your files.
- Return the original subpoena, with its “Proof of Service” on page 3, to the court for filing at least 5 days before your hearing.
NOTE 1: If the record keeper is being asked to appear in court, he or she can ask for $35 a day, plus 20¢ a mile each way, at the time you serve the subpoena – the same as any other witness. Be prepared to pay these fees. Make a receipt for the record keeper to sign, if possible.
- Form SC-107 lets the record keeper know that they have a right to these fees, which must be paid when you serve the subpoena.
- In small claims court, the hearings only last one day. So if the record keeper asks for the money and you don’t pay it, then the record keeper does not have to show up at your hearing.
- If you win the case, you may be able to recover the fees you paid the record keeper from the other side. You will have to ask the court at the end of the hearing to order the losing side to pay these fees.
NOTE 2: Different fees apply to record keepers who are police officers or firefighters if they are required to appear with documents in court. The fee for them is $150 of higher per day. Serve the subpoena and pay the fees to the precinct or fire house where the officer or firefighter is stationed.
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