Subpoena witnesses and documents

A subpoena is a legal document you may ask the Court to issue to require a person to provide documents, attend court to give evidence, or both provide documents and come to court.

A person served with a subpoena will need to produce the document or attend court, depending on what the subpoena requires. Subpoenas are used when a person or organisation is unwilling or unable to agree to the request voluntarily. Anyone who does not comply with a subpoena may be arrested and ordered to pay costs caused by their non-compliance. They may also be found guilty of contempt of court.

Order 42 of the County Court Civil Procedure Rules 2018 sets out the rules relating to subpoenas.

Issuing a subpoena

To apply to the Court to issue a subpoena, you will need to first choose the appropriate form:

Each of the forms include instructions about what to include in the form, such as the date that the person is required to attend court and the documents that the person must bring.

Filing a subpoena with the Registry

Once you have completed the forms, bring three copies to the Court Registry and pay the filing fee. If the subpoena complies with the court rules, it will be issued by the Registry and stamped with the court seal. In some circumstances, a party will first require the permission of a judge to issue a subpoena. If this is the case you will be told by the Judge or Court Registry.

Serving a subpoena

Once a subpoena is issued by the Court, a sealed copy will need to be served personally on the person it is addressed to. It will need to be served on or before the last date for service noted on the first page of the subpoena, at least five working days before the production or attendance date (weekends and public holidays are not included). If the person being served lives interstate, the last date for service should be 14 calendar days before the date for attendance or production (weekends and public holidays are included). Conduct money will need to be provided to meet the reasonable expenses of the person in the subpoena to travel to the court to give evidence or provide the documents.

Objecting to a subpoena

A person may object to do what a subpoena asks them to do, or object to the validity of a subpoena. It is important to make sure that what the subpoena is requiring them to do is reasonable. An objection to a subpoena may require you to attend court to object to the subpoena or argue why the subpoena is valid.

Inspecting subpoenaed documents

If a subpoena requires documents to be provided to the Court, a party may request to view those documents. Requests are made to the County Court Registry. Application is to be made via email to In some circumstances, the permission of a judge is required before documents will be released to a party. The Judge may require you to attend court and ask questions about your request.

The information on this page relates to proceedings in the Commercial or Common Law Divisions. If your matter is in the Criminal Division, visit our Criminal Division page.

For an explanation of common legal terms and phrases, please see our glossary.

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Page last updated: 28 November 2018