050-18: Subpoena

Questions? Contact Campus Administrative Policies


Acceptance of legal notices such as claims, summons and complaints, or subpoenas.


This policy concerns the acceptance of legal notices such as claims, summons and complaints, or subpoenas. It ensures that all legal requirements are met, and that the University's attorneys, liability insurance programs, and administrators receive the documents in a timely fashion in order to protect the University's interests.


A written demand for payment, sometimes received prior to initiation of a lawsuit.

The department head and the principal investigator, where one exists, who share custodial responsibility for any inventorial equipment in their possession or under their jurisdiction.

A deposition subpoena requires a party or non-party to testify, and may also require the production of documents, before the subpoenaing party. A deposition subpoena differs from a subpoena duces tecum in that a deposition involves giving testimony about one's knowledge of certain events and/or expertise about a particular subject(s).

Delivery of legal notices to an individual or organization to provide official notice of a legal action or proceeding. The two common types of service of process are: 1) personal service (i.e., legal papers are hand-delivered to the individual to be served); and 2) mail service (i.e., legal papers are mailed to the individual or organization to be served).

A court order compelling a person or representative of an organization to testify or to produce records (or both) at a certain date, time, and place.

Orders the person subpoenaed to produce books, documents, or other records under his/her control at a specified time and place (e.g., at a court hearing). An appearance may sometimes be avoided by producing copies of the records to the subpoenaing party by a specified date.

The legal documents that initiate a lawsuit. A copy of a summons and complaint must be served on each defendant named in a case.

Compensation paid to a person who has been subpoenaed but who is not a party (either plaintiff or defendant) to the lawsuit.


  1. Personal Service of Claims or Summons and Complaint on the University

    If UCSF, the University of California, or The Regents is the entity being served, the process server should be informed that the only way to effect service on the University is to take or mail the papers to the UC General Counsel's Office. However, if the process server insists on leaving the papers, they should be forwarded the same day to Legal Affairs.

  2. Personal Service of Claims or Summons and Complaint on an Individual Employee Where the Claim or Lawsuit Involves University Business

    If the process server indicates that the papers are to be served on an individual, and the claim or lawsuit involves University business, the process server should be allowed to deliver the papers to the individual being served. If the employee is unavailable, the process server may ask to leave the papers with a person "apparently in charge" of the department or office where the employee works, followed by mail copy to the individual to be served. In either case, the person accepting the papers should note the date and time the papers were received and forward them to one of the following offices for action: (1) Medical Center Risk Management - professional liability; (2) Business, Administrative, and Risk Management Services - general liability; or (3) Legal Affairs - other actions.

  3. Mail Service of Claims or Summons and Complaint on the University or on Individuals Where the Claim or Suit Involves University Business

    The documents served will usually contain a form entitled "Acknowledgement of Mail Service." This form should not be filled out or returned to the sender. The UC General Counsel's Office or the attorney assigned to the case will complete and return the form. The date and time of receipt should be noted before sending the forms to Legal Affairs.

  4. Personal or Mail Service of Subpoenas Involving University Business
    1. Subpoenas may be served on an individual, on the Custodian of Records by name or title, or on a department or office. A subpoena received by mail service or personal service should be accepted. The individual or department subpoenaed should contact Legal Affairs if necessary to discuss compliance with the subpoena.
    2. For personal service of a subpoena addressed to an individual, the process server should be allowed to deliver the subpoena to the individual being served. If neither the individual nor the University is named as a party to the lawsuit (either as plaintiff or defendant), the individual should ask the server for the statutory witness fee.
    3. A subpoena duces tecum will frequently be addressed to the Custodian of Records of a particular department. If the server has brought it to some place other than the department named on the subpoena, he/she should be directed to the correct department. If a subpoena duces tecum has been presented to the department named in the subpoena, the papers should be accepted even if the records described in the subpoena do not exist. If the records exist, but in a department other than the one named in the subpoena, the subpoena should be accepted without comment. The individual accepting the subpoena should not ask for witness fees as these are generally billed.
    4. In general, the department subpoenaed is obligated either to provide the information described in the subpoena duces tecum, to respond saying the department has no records that fit the description in the subpoena, or to claim that the records are "privileged" and should not be released. Some medical, legal, and "confidential " documents are exempt from disclosure and the University could be penalized if the information is disclosed. All potential claims of privilege must be determined by Legal Affairs or the UC General Counsel's Office.
    5. A detailed description of the policy and procedures involved in responding to a subpoena is contained in the UC Business and Finance Bulletins, Instructions for Responding to Subpoena (RMP-10). Questions concerning subpoenas should be directed to the offices listed in section III.B. of this policy.
  5. Personal Service of Claim, Summons and Complaint, or Subpoena on an Individual Employee, Not Involving University Business

    The process server should be allowed to deliver the document to the named employee. If the employee is unavailable, the process server may want to leave the papers with someone else in the office with the instructions that they are to be given to the person for whom they are intended. Employees should comply with the request if the papers can be given to the addressee in the normal course of business.


Contact responsible office with any questions.