How to File a Motion to Quash a Subpoena

By Teo Spengler
Banks and businesses regularly get subpoenas for documents.

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Quashing a subpoena may sound like a violent act and, in fact, the term quash comes from the Latin word for shatter. The modern definition -- to nullify -- is less exciting. Because a subpoena is a court-enforced request that you do something, quashing it means convincing the court to void that request.

Subpoena Procedure

A subpoena is a legal document prepared by an attorney, telling you that either your testimony or something in your possession -- like a document -- is required in a court action. The subpoena is generally handed to you personally and sets the date for you to appear or produce the items requested.

Responding to a Subpoena

Don't toss that subpoena in the recycling bin. State laws impose civil penalties for failure to comply with a subpoena. Take a look at the request and figure out if it is improper. If so, you can file a paper with the court asking the judge to void the subpoena. The motion to quash a subpoena must specify what the problem is with the request. Time limits apply so check with the court to be sure you act before the deadline.

Grounds to Quash

A subpoena that asks for documents or items to be produced must clearly specify the items. You can move to quash if the language is too vague or broad. The request must not be burdensome and, in most cases, it cannot seek confidential information or require you to travel excessively.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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