1. Notify your editor immediately, as soon as you become aware that a subpoena may be served on you. The editor should also notify the lawyer at that point. Although subpoenas normally include reasonable advance notice of the date on which you are to appear, this is not always the case, and there may be a relatively "short fuse" by the time service is actually accomplished.
(The Criminal Division Policy Manual of the King County Prosecutor's Office stipulates in its Media Prosecutor Relations section that media should be provided advance notice that a subpoena duces tecum is being sought, except in extreme circumstances.)
2. Do not try to avoid service. A subpoena must be "served" upon you, usually by a court officer (for example, a U.S. marshal) or a "process server" authorized by court rule or law. Although you are under no obligation to make his or her job easier, there are adequate procedures under the law to virtually ensure service on you at some point. Resistance to service by a member of the organized press may make it difficult to negotiate a compromise at a later date. In extreme cases the subpoena may simply be abandoned and a search warrant issued in its place.
The act of accepting service of a subpoena does not, by itself, constitute an admission of anything and does not impose liability (other than the obligation to appear).
3. Note carefully the circumstances of service: when, where, how, and other details. This information may be useful in a motion to quash.
4. Do not accept service for another person. Do not volunteer information about the person to the process server without first discussing it with your editor. If necessary, refuse to answer any questions without first consulting your editor or the newspaper's lawyer.
5. If production of your notes or other documents is required (a subpoena duces tecum), start compiling those notes and deliver them to your editor. At this point, the documents requested are evidence in the case and must be preserved. Destruction of documents may result in a citation for contempt of court.
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