Can you send a subpoena duces tecum — which translated from Latin is "a writ commanding a person to produce in court certain designated documents or evidence " — without coupling it with a deposition?
Maybe that question has never puzzled you, but in an Order of the Business Court on February 12, 2015 in Harriott v. Central Carolina Surgical Eye Associates, P.A. Judge Bledsoe answered whether a subpoena duces tecum can be served without noticing a deposition in conjunction with the subpoena.
Plaintiff had served a subpoena duces tecum on several entities which were not party to the case. Those entities objected contending that a "subpoena duces tecum must be issued in conjunction with a proceeding in which testimony is to be received."
Judge Bledsoe disagreed, ruling "a subpoena duces tecum . . . can . . . be used to compel a non-party to produce documents without a concurrent request to testify." Order at 1-2.
The governing Rule of Civil Procedure (NCRCP 45) is less than clear on this point. It says that a "command to produce records, books, papers, electronically stored information, or tangible things may be joined with a command to appear at trial or hearing or at a deposition, or any subpoena may be issued separately." NCRCP 45(a)(2).
The federal rule, by contrast, is explicit on being able to serve a subpoena for documents without a contemporaneous deposition. It says that:
Combining or Separating a Command to Produce or to Permit Inspection . . . . A command to produce documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things or to permit the inspection of premises may be included in a subpoena commanding attendance at a deposition, hearing, or trial, or may be set out in a separate subpoena.
So, if there was any doubt about this practical nuts and bolts issue, state law practice is now consistent with the federal rule. Subpoena away. At least in the Business Court.