Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Subpoena Definition:

Latin: an order of a court which requires a person to be present at a certain time and place or suffer a penalty (subpoena means, literally, under penalty).

Related Terms: Duces Tecum, Letters of Exculpation, Writ, Summons, Citation

This is the traditional tool used by lawyers to ensure that witnesses present themselves at a given place, date and time to make themselves available to testify (see also duces tecum).

In Swinamer, Justice Cowan of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court wrote:

"A subpoena is a document ... where a party desires to call any person as a witness at a trial.... No order of the Court is normally required for the issue of a subpoena."

An Alberta v AUPE, an Albertan labour arbitrator adopted these words:

"A subpoena is a command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter.... A document requiring a person to attend as a witness.... [T]he term subpoena contemplates some document issued by a third party that compels a person to attend as a witness in order to give testimony."


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