DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 20: Special Information
20-4  Subpoenas and Depositions
Special Information
20-4  Subpoenas and Depositions

Reference Points

Overview
DFCS Policy
Agency Expectations and Processes
Who Is Authorized to Accept Subpoenas at the Social Services Agency
Quick Guide: Steps to Follow When Subpoenaed to Criminal Court
Quick Guide: Steps to Follow when Subpoenaed to Family or Probate Court


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 4/20/11


Overview  

A subpoena is a legal document written under the power of a court or an administrative body that orders: (1) the person named in the subpoena to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony; (2) the delivery of documents; or (3) the person named in the subpoena to appear and deliver documents.

Subpoenas are used in a wide range of proceedings, including civil or criminal trials, depositions in civil cases, arbitrations and administrative hearings. The subpoena will state whether the person is being called to testify in court (state or federal), at hearing, or at a deposition, to produce documents, or both.

A deposition subpoena is issued to summon a person to make a sworn statement at a time and place other than at trial, usually before trial.  It may also require the party to provide copies of business records, documents, or other tangible things.  Usually, deposition subpoenas are issued by an officer of the court or attorney or record in the case and is served on the named individual, department, or office.... (Source: USLEGAL.com at http://definitions, uslegal.com/d/deposition-subpoena/.)

County employees are frequently subpoenaed to testify in court or at a deposition or to produce documents relating to the work they have done. When a valid subpoena is properly served, the employee must comply with it unless there is an appropriate objection. Sometimes subpoenas have very short deadlines. Therefore, employees should contact the County Counsel’s Office immediately when they are served with a subpoena related to work.

For further information , see Receiving Legal Documents under the Office of County Counsel Legal Guide on the Santa Clara County Intranet.

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DFCS Policy  

The Social Services Agency (SSA) Custodian of Records (COR) is solely responsible for the acceptance and subsequent service to Agency staff of subpoenas and other legal process related to Agency matters. Agency staff (NOT the person named on the legal document) must direct any person attempting to serve such papers to the Custodian of Records located at Human Resources, 333 W. Julian, Bldg. 1.  The current SSA COR is Virginia Miranda.   The SSA COR forwards subpoenas for DFCS staff to the DFCS COR, Ronni Smith.

Only the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors or the Chairperson of the Board of Supervisors is authorized to accept service of legal process against the County.  If a process server comes to any Agency staff wanting to serve the County of Santa Clara, the server should be directed to the Clerk of the Board.

Neither the Custodian of Records nor anyone else in the Agency is authorized to accept service of legal papers on behalf of an individual employee when such is unrelated to Agency business.  A process server may argue that it is permissible to leave a copy of the legal service at the individual's place of employment.  In such a circumstance, Agency staff should clearly inform the process server that, while leaving a copy of the e legal service may be legally permissible, it is our Agency policy not to accept such service.

If the process server leaves the subpoena/legal papers without authorization, the receptionist should note the time, date, and place of such delivery.  The receptionist should inform the process server that the legal document was not accepted at that location sand it should be noted on the legal document.  The Custodian of Records must be notified of the situation immediately.

Occasionally, staff members receive subpoenas and other legal process (i.e., petition for disclosure of records) through the U.S. mail system.  These mailed requests must be forwarded immediately to the SSA Custodian of Records for disposition.

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Agency Expectations and Processes

 

A subpoena served by the Agency’s Custodian of Records can NOT be ignored.

    • Staff’s failure to appear in court may have a negative effect on the credibility of the Agency and as the staff person as an employee and can possibly result in an adverse outcome of the trial.
    • Failure of a staff person to appear in court when subpoenaed may result in a bench warrant being issued for the staff's arrest for non-appearance.
    • Non-appearances could result in disciplinary action.



After the DFCS Custodian of Records (COR) receives a subpoena from the SSA Custodian of Records, the DFCS COR contacts each of the following and provides them with a copy of the subpoena:

  • Subpoenaed DFCS staff person
  • Staff person's supervisor
  • Deputy County Counsel kathryn Hogan
  • Lead Deputy County Counsels



When the DFCS Custodian of Records notifies a DFCS staff person about a subpoena, the staff person:

  • Contacts County Counsel Kathryn Hogan at 491-4200.
    • County Counsel assists the staff person concerning issues related to adhering to the requirements of the subpoena and to prepare to provide testimony.

      Note: Under no circumstances should DFCS staff testify at a deposition without County Counsel present.  When served a deposition subpoena, DFCS staff are prepared for the deposition and represented by County counsel when testimony is given.





  • MUST give the supervisor a copy of the subpoena request and the "telephone standby agreement," if included.


  • When the subpoena is delivered, if the staff person has a pre-approved conflict (i.e., preapproved vacation, medical appointment, etc.), informs the Custodian of Records IMMEDIATELY and contact the District Attorney (DA) so other arrangements can be made. Every effort should be made to rearrange time off, if at all possible.
    • No time off should be approved after a subpoena is delivered if it conflicts with the court date. 
  • Must be available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the court date.
    • If the court appearance falls on the individual's routinely scheduled day off (i.e. alternate hours), it is the individual's responsibility to arrange an alternate day off with the supervisor.
    • If the individual's normal work day is other than 8 - 5 (adjusted work hours), he/she must revert to 8 - 5 for that day. [Adjusted Hours Side-letter Agreement, 1.D.]
  • If an emergency arises on the scheduled hearing date and the staff person cannot be at court, contacts his or her supervisor.
    • The staff person's supervisor MUST contact the D.A. and advise the D.A.'s Office of the situation.
  • If a "Telephone Standby Agreement" is attached to the subpoena, completes and returns it to the D.A. in the self-addressed envelope.
    • Telephone stand-by does NOT relieve the staff person
      from your obligation to appear in court when needed.
    • Telephone standby does not apply to all types of subpoenaed court appearances. The staff person DOES NOT assume that he or she is on telephone stand-by unless the agreement is attached to the subpoena and returned to the D.A.
    • It is suggested that the staff person contacts the D.A. one or two business days prior to the court date to confirm the standby status and to determine the actual date for the court appearance.
      • The date on the subpoena is usually the first date of the trial, not necessarily the date that the staff person's presence in court will be required.
      • The investigator should also be contacted in advance if the staff person wishes to review the case or documents to refresh his or her memory prior to the hearing.
      • On the court date, it is the staff person's responsibility to arrive promptly, as ordered. If
        transportation is needed, notify the supervisor in advance.
      • Subpoenas from the D.A. will include a parking voucher and instructions on use of parking facilities.
      • If the staff person is on telephone standby, the individual must be by his or phone phone all day.
        • If the individual has a cell phone that was provided to the D.A., the cell phone must be kept on and with you at all times.

  • It is advised to dress conservatively, as for a job interview, for example. (Do not wear blue jeans or T-shirts.)

  • Subpoenas are valid for one (1) year.
    • If the court date on the subpoena is changed or if the staff person is notified of additional court dates for the same issue, the staff should consider himself or herself to still be under subpoena if the dates are within a year of the original subpoena.
        • Any any questions as to when the individual is excused, you should contact the D.A.
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Who Is Authorized to Accept Subpoenas at the Social Services Agency  

The persons listed below are authorized to accept subpoenas and other legal process pertaining to Agency matters and to subsequently serve them on Agency staff as necessary:

Virginia Miranda

Human Resources

333 W. Julian St., Bldg. 1

491-6311

Legal Process is accepted by the Custodian:

8:30 - 11:30 AM

1:30 - 4:00 PM

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Quick Guide:

Steps to Follow When Subpoenaed to Criminal Court

 

Review Agency Expectations and Processes in the section above.

Upon receiving a subpoena, the staff person takes the following steps:

  1. Read the subpoena carefully.
     
  2. Notify your supervisor and any colleague assigned to the case immediately.
     
  3. Write the hearing date in your calendar immediately.
     
  4. Contact your County Counsel attorney at 491-4200 for advice and assistance.
     
  5. Phone the attorney who sent the subpoena and:
      • Determine the purpose of your testimony;
      • Ask whether you can be on telephone standby; 
      • Inform the attorney that you cannot bring or provide documents from your case file without an order from the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court under Welfare and Institutions Code § 827 and Cal. Rule of Court 1423; and
      • Limit your conversation with the attorney to the three bulleted items above.  Do not disclose to the attorney information about the case unless he or she is a District Attorney.
     
  6. Obey the subpoena by appearing in court unless telephone standby arrangements have been agreed to.
    • Do not take the case file to the Criminal Court.
    • Only take to the Criminal Court copies of those documents from the case file which the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court has identified in a § 827 disclosure order.
     
  7. Inform the attorneys and judge at Criminal Court as follows:
    • Any information you have about the case is confidential under Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 827 and 10850 and Cal. Rule of Court 1423. 
    • You cannot answer questions about the case unless ordered to do so by the Criminal Court Judge or the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court. 
    • You cannot produce documents from your file unless authorized by the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court under § 827 and Cal. Rule of Court 1423.

  8. Testify only if ordered to do so by the Criminal Court Judge on the record.
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Quick Guide:

Steps to Follow When Subpoenaed to Family or Probate Court

 

Review Agency Expectations and Processes in the section above.  If you receive a subpoena directly and not through the Custodian of Records (COR), call the COR immediately and send a copy of the subpoena to the COR.

Upon receiving a subpoena involving Family or Probate Court, the staff person takes the following steps:

  1. Read the subpoena carefully.
    • Note the attorney who subpoenaed you; whom that attorney represents; the date, time,and location of the court hearing; and whether the request is just for your presence or if it includes a request for your files or DFCS records.
    • If your file or DFCS records are requested, you must contact the COR about your redacting of confidential information and preparing the records for you to take to Family or Probate Court.
      • Redacted information must include all attorney-client privileged information and the name of the reporting party.

  2. Notify your supervisor and any colleague assigned to the case immediately.

  3. Write the hearing date in your calendar immediately.

  4. Phone the attorney who sent the subpoena and:
      • Determine the purpose of your testimony;
      • Ask whether you can be on telephone standby; 
        • Being on telephone standby means you agree to appear in court within 30 minutes of being called and notified that your testimony is needed.
      • Confirm that the subpoena involves an active family law or probate case involving custody or visitation issues.
        • If confirmed, you may discuss the case with the attorney who subpoenaed you.  Remember, you cannot disclose any information that would identify the reporting party.
      • Inform the attorney that you cannot bring or provide documents from your case file without an order from the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court under Welfare and Institutions Code § 827 and Cal. Rule of Court 1423; and
      • Limit your conversation with the attorney to the three bulleted items above.  Do not disclose to the attorney information about the case unless he or she is a District Attorney.

  5. If the subpoena is for anything other than a custody or visitation issue in Family Court or Probate Court, contact County Counsel at 491-4200 to discuss the subpoena.

  6. Obey the subpoena by appearing in court unless telephone standby arrangements have been agreed to.
    • Take the COR-prepared file if it was requested.
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