Rule 17: Subpoenas.



(a) Issuance. A subpoena shall be issued by a clerk or other authorized court officer, who shall sign it but otherwise leave it blank. The party requesting the subpoena shall fill in the blanks before the subpoena is served.

(b) Defendants Unable to Pay. On a defendant’s ex parte application, the court shall order that a subpoena be issued for a named witness if the defendant shows an inability to pay the witness fees and that the presence of the witness is necessary for an adequate defense. If the court orders the subpoena to be issued, the process costs and witness fees shall be paid in the same manner as those paid for state witnesses.

(c) Witnesses. A subpoena shall state the court’s name and the title of the proceeding and command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at the time and place and for the party the subpoena specifies.

(d) Documents and Objects. A subpoena may order a person to produce the books, papers, documents, or other objects the subpoena designates.

(1) Production to Permit Inspection. The court may direct that the designated items be produced in court before trial or before they are to be offered in evidence. When the items arrive, the court may permit the parties and their attorneys to inspect all or part of them.

(2) Compliance Unreasonable. On motion made promptly and in any event by the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, the court may quash or modify the subpoena if compliance would be unreasonable or oppressive. The court may condition denial of the motion on the advancement by the party in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or other objects.

(e) Depositions; Place of Examination.

(1) Issuance. A court order to take a deposition authorizes the clerk of the court in which the proceeding is pending to issue subpoenas for the persons named or described in the deposition order.

(2) Place of Deposition. A Tennessee resident may be required to give a deposition only in the Tennessee county in which the person resides, is employed, transacts the person's business in person, or at such other convenient place the court orders. A nonresident of Tennessee may be required to attend only in the Tennessee county where the nonresident is served with subpoena or at such other place the court orders.

(f) Service.

(1) Method of Service. A subpoena may be served by any person authorized to serve process, or the witness may acknowledge service in writing on the subpoena. The server shall deliver or offer to deliver a copy of the subpoena to the person to whom it is directed or leave a copy with an adult occupant of the person's usual residence.

(2) Service Within State. A subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial may be served any place within Tennessee.

(g) Contempt. When a subpoena is served on a person, the court issuing the subpoena may deem the person’s refusal to obey the subpoena to be contempt of court unless the person has an adequate excuse.

(h) Information not Subject to Subpoena. Statements by witnesses or prospective witnesses may not be subpoenaed from the state or the defendant under this rule, but are subject to production only in accordance with the provisions of Rule 26.2.

Advisory Commission Comment.

This rule is an adaptation of the federal rule. The first provision of section (e)(2) is taken from the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 45.04(2). Rule 17(h) is similar to its federal counterpart. This provision only makes it clear that the proper method to secure witness statements from the opposing side–either at trial or at a pretrial hearing under Rule 12(b)–is as set forth in Rule 26.2.

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