In the course of legal proceedings, subpoenas are often issued as a means of gathering information. When they are received by clinicians, they are often accompanied by considerable anxiety about how to respond. Indeed, some clinicians wonder whether to respond at all. Many clinicians are under the impression that subpoenas issued by attorneys carry no authority. This is largely incorrect, and here is why: Attorneys licensed to practice law in a state are also considered to be officers of the court, and when they are engaged in litigation before a court they are empowered by the court to issue subpoenas relating to matters at issue. This means that properly drafted subpoenas have the force of law.
What makes things complicated for clinicians is that subpoenas sometimes ask for confidential information, and clinicians have an independent obligation to maintain the confidentiality of patient information. Other times subpoenas ask for information that the clinician feels is irrelevant. What is a clinician to do? Here is where having your own attorney comes in very handy. An attorney is best able to help you understand (1) your legal obligations, and (2) your options.
IMPORTANT: This website is for basic information only. Nothing in this website should be construed to be formal legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Please see the “Important Information” page at the top of the screen.