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Legal Memorandum: Grounds for Quashing a Subpoena

Issue: When will the federal district courts quash a subpoena as oppressive, or unduly burdensome?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Subpoena; Oppressive, or unduly burdensome; Quash
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 751 F.2d 395; 673 F. Supp. 152; 847 F.2d 108; 392 F.3d 812; 133 F.3d 17
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A)
Date: 05/01/2005

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A), the court may modify or quash a subpoena that (1) fails to allow sufficient time for compliance; (2) requires a non-party to travel more than 100 miles from his or her residence; (3) requires disclosure of privileged or protected material; or (4) subjects the movant to an undue burden.  Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A).  It is the moving party that bears the burden of proving that compliance with a subpoena would be both unreasonable and oppressive.  Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 392 F.3d 812, 818 (5th Cir. 2004).  “The ‘burden of proving that a subpoena is oppressive is on the party moving to quash.'”  Linder v. Dep’t of Defense, 133 F.3d 17, 24 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting Northrop Corp. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 751 F.2d 395, 403 (D.C. Cir. 1984)).

Whether a burdensome subpoena is reasonable must be determined according to the facts of the case, such as the party’s need for the documents and the nature and importance of the litigation.  To determine whether the subpoena presents an undue burden, [the court] consider[s] the following factors:  (1) relevance of the information requested; (2) the need of the party for the documents; (3) the breadth of the document request; (4) the time period covered by the request; (5) the particularity with which the party describes the requested documents; (6) the burden imposed.

Wiwa, 392 F.3d at 818 (quotation marks and citations omitted).  Accord Mycogen […]

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