- CURRENT AS OF: Oct 26th 2014
This Subpoena Guide covers generally applicable statewide rules of practice regarding subpoenas in Tennessee trial courts. Local jurisdictions often have their own rules and procedures developed by judges and clerks that are not reduced to writing, and are subject to change at any time, especially regarding subpoenas to foreign witnesses and subpoenas for use in foreign actions. Therefore, it is always recommended that you consult the clerk's office for the court under whose authority the subpoena will be issued.
Plaintiff Must Wait 30 Days
Depositions may be taken by the defendant at any time after commencement of the action and by the plaintiff once 30 days have passed since commencement of the action. The plaintiff need not wait 30 days to notice or subpoena a deposition if the defendant has already done so or if the plaintiff is using rule authorized procedures to take an early deposition. TN RCP 30.01 (amended eff 7/1/79).
A party desiring to take the deposition of any person upon oral examination shall give notice in writing to every other party to the action. The notice shall be served on the other parties at least five days beforehand when the deposition is to be taken in the county in which suit is pending. When the deposition is to be taken out of the county, at least seven days' notice shall be given. TN RCP 30.02(amended eff 7/1/96).
A person served with a subpoena for deposition, trial testimony or production can file a motion to quash or modify promptly and in all cases before the specified time for compliance. TN RCP 45.07 (amended eff 7/1/11).
Subpoenas may be issued, signed but otherwise in blank, by the clerk of court, and delivered to any party requesting the subpoena for completion and service. TN RCP 45.01 (amended eff 7/1/12); TN RCP 45.04 (amended eff 7/1/99); TN RCP 45.05 (amended eff 7/1/95).
A subpoena may be used to command appearance and testimony by deposition, command appearance and testimony at trial or hearing or command production or permitted inspection and copying of designated books, documents or tangible things in the possession, custody or control of the subpoenaed person. TN RCP 45.01 (amended eff 7/1/12); TN RCP 45.02 (amended eff 7/1/10).
Subpoenas that seek production or inspection of documents or things, whether in conjunction with a deposition or without appearance, are subject to the Tennessee rules pertaining to the permissible scope of discovery generally. TN RCP 45.04 (amended eff 7/1/95).
State residents may only be subpoenaed to give a deposition in the county where they live, are employed or regularly conduct business, or at another convenient place ordered by the court. TN RCP 45.04 (amended eff 7/1/99).
Trial subpoenas can be served anywhere in the state. TN RCP 45.05 (amended eff 7/1/95).
On filing of an affidavit that the testimony of a witness is important and that the just and proper effect of the testimony cannot be obtained without an oral examination in court, the court may, in its discretion, order the personal attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial even if that witness may otherwise be exempt from personal attendance. TN RCP 45.05 (amended eff 7/1/95).
All material produced in response to a subpoena for production or inspection must be made available for inspection and copying to all other parties in the case. TN RCP 45.02 (amended eff 7/1/10).
On timely motion, the court can quash, modify or place reasonable conditions on a subpoena if it is unreasonable or oppressive. TN RCP 45.07 (amended eff 7/1/11).
Disobedience of a properly served subpoena may constitute contempt of the court. TN RCP 45.06.
Submit Foreign Subpoena, Clerk to Issue Subpoena for Service in Tennessee
A party may submit a foreign subpoena to a clerk of court in the county in which discovery is sought to be conducted. When a party submits a foreign subpoena to a clerk of court in this state, the clerk must promptly issue a subpoena for service upon the person to which the foreign subpoena is directed. TN Code 24-9-203 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Required Contents of Subpoena
The subpoena shall incorporate the terms used in the foreign subpoena and contain or be accompanied by the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all counsel of record in the proceeding to which the subpoena relates and of any party not represented by counsel. TN Code 24-9-203 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Service of Process Required
A foreign subpoena issued for service in Tennessee must be served in compliance with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure relative to service of process. TN Code 24-9-204 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Requests for Production Must Comply with Tennessee Discovery Rules
When a foreign subpoena is issued for service in Tennessee and commands a person to attend and give testimony at a deposition, produce designated books, documents, records, electronically stored information, or tangible things, or permit inspection of premises, the time and place and the manner of the taking of the deposition, the production, or the inspection must comply with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure relative to discovery. TN Code 24-9-205 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Motion for Protective Order/To Quash--Submit to Court in County Where Discovery to be Conducted
An application to the court for a protective order or to enforce, quash, or modify a foreign subpoena issued for service in Tennessee must comply with applicable Tennessee rules and statutes and be submitted to the court in the county in which discovery is to be conducted. TN Code 24-9-206 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Grant or Denial of Motion for Protective Order/To Quash
If the court grants a motion to modify or quash, the court may award the party subpoenaed its reasonable attorney's fees and expenses incurred in defending against the subpoena. A final order of the court awarding attorney's fees and expenses has the status of a judgment entitled to full faith and credit under the constitution of the United States. If the court sustains the subpoena as issued, the court may award the prevailing party its reasonable attorney's fees and expenses. TN Code 24-9-207 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Request for Subpoena Does Not Constitute Appearance
The request for and issuance of a subpoena does not constitute making an appearance in the courts of this state. TN Code 24-9-203 (amended eff 7/1/08).
Tennessee has adopted the Uniform Foreign Depositions Act which provides that upon issuance of a mandate, writ or commission from any foreign court, or with notice to or agreement of the parties, a deposition to be used in an out of state proceeding may be subpoenaed in Tennessee in the same manner as would be required for a case pending in state. TN Code 24-9-103. (repealed 7/1/08)
Subpoenas must state the name of court and the title of the action and command one or more of the following actions:
Attendance and testimony at a specified time and place. TN RCP 45.01 (amended eff 7/1/12).
Production or permission to inspect and copy designated books, documents or tangible things, or to inspect premises, with or without appearance at the place of production or inspection. When appearance is not required, such a subpoena must also require the person to whom it is directed to swear or affirm that the books, papers, documents, or tangible things are authentic to the best of that person's knowledge, information, and belief and to state whether or not all books, papers, documents, or tangible things responsive to the subpoena have been produced for copying or inspection. TN RCP 45.02 (amended eff 7/1/2010).
The subpoena also must state in prominently displayed, bold-faced text: The failure to file a motion to quash or modify within fourteen days of service of the subpoena waives all objections to the subpoena, except the right to seek the reasonable cost for producing books, papers, documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things. TN RCP 45.01 (amended eff 7/1/12).
A standard form is available from the court and may be viewed online at:
Tennessee civil fee schedules are published at the local level. Check with the clerk of the court where your case is pending to determine the current subpoena issuance fee.
Unless the subpoena is at issue in a discovery dispute or contempt proceeding, subpoenas customarily are not filed with the court.
Method of Service
A subpoena can be served by anyone authorized to serve process, or the subpoenaed person may acknowledge service in writing on the subpoena document. Service must be made by personally delivering a copy to the subpoenaed person. TN RCP 45.03.
Serve Copy of Production Subpoena on All Other Parties
A subpoena for production or inspection must be served on all other parties in the case. TN RCP 45.02 (amended eff 7/1/10).
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