How does one refuse to be subpoenaed?

No not me. I was watching a Sovereign Idiot video and he wanted to subpoena Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. I’m assuming that Thomas has no knowledge of the case and has no clue who this guy is. So when Thomas gets the subpoena, how can he go about not testifying?

Private individuals can’t subpoena someone. They have to apply to a court or a judge to issue a subpoena. Even if some judge somewhere issues a subpoena, the target can apply to court to quash it.

If it’s a subpoena from the “Sovereign People’s Court of the so-called District of Columbia”, Thomas can just pitch it in the waste basket.


IANAL, but… Every so often you see someone wanting to subpoena the president (or here, the Prime Minister) over some stupid case where they are going to court. Basically, from the odd item I’ve seen in the news about it with any detail (as we heard ad nauseum about Trumps case) the essence of a court case is “the prosecution must prove these elements to convict” and “the defense can present arguments to refute such elements”.

Where someone wants to supbpoena someone as a witness with no direct connection to the case - the judge will say words to the effect of “whoa, wait a minute - what relevance to the case can this witness provide?” and the defendant must show what relevant evidence the person can provide, and why someone more directly connected to the case can;t provide it. (i.e. don’t call on the chief of police, call on the detective in charge of the case).

I assume that except for a few nutbars who happen to be lawyers, the problem arises mostly with people who choose to defend themselves, which puts the judge on alert for emergent stupidity.

It was a Senate panel instead of a SovCit and Chief Justice Roberts instead of Justice Thomas but otherwise surprisingly similar to the OP. They ask/request, he declines/refuses.

The senate cannot charge anyone for refusing to testify (as occurred a few times with the Jan 6 commission). They can only refer it to the Department of Justice and ask that they charge the person. IIRC they did charge Bannon (in the news today, report to jail July 1) but declined to charge Mark Meadows.

The thing with Roberts is that, like the President, he is part of (head of) a separate branch of government, so presumably due to the concept of separation of powers, the House or senate cannot “order” him to testify. And the DoJ won’t try to prosecute for that, because - oddly - any appeal would end up at he Supreme Court.

Note in the article they “invited” him to testify. They weren’t going to push the issue either.

Pick your battles.

Yes and neither can OP’s SovCit.

Roberts was not subpoenaed – he was invited to testify by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Declining to do so has no more legal ramifications than declining an invitation to brunch.

Congressional committees CAN issue subpoenas. If the subpoenaed individual refuses to comply, Congress can request the DOJ to pursue criminal prosecution, or Congress can petition the courts for civil enforcement. Since criminal enforcement requires DOJ cooperation, if the subpoenaed individual is a member of the current Administration it is very unlikely that DOJ would pursue enforcement.

However, both chambers of Congress also have the power to enforce their own subpoenas (i.e. inherent contempt). This was the norm up until the passage of the criminal contempt statute in the 1850s. Although long dormant, there is no reason why Congress could not revive this practice, which would allow the relevant Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest an individual and the chamber to try and potentially imprison him or her. Personally, I’d recommend the storage lockers in the Longworth attic as suitable cells for recalcitrant witnesses.

In Michigan, a subpoena signed by an attorney of record in an action has the same force and affect as a subpoena signed by a judge. Not exactly a random person, but arguably still a private individual (just not the party themself).

YMMV, but in Canada, all lawyers are officers of the court, so I wouldn’t call them private parties in the legal system.

I suspect in the case of Mark Meadows, DoJ was reluctant to set a precedent that high White House officials should be charged for asseting executive privilege. Steve Banon did not actually work for the White House, so when he asserted “executive privilege” he was neither part of the executive nor was he privileged, except in his own mind.

Yes, that’s right. OP’s SovCit request, insistent as it may be, carries no authority.

Short answer - I’ve seen a lot of “nutty” lawsuits wanting to depose CEO’s/etc. and they immediately don’t get past the filing part because the person bringing the lawsuit doesn’t know how to file a lawsuit properly. So they hypo would never come to be.

Longer answer…I’ll add context to Northern_Piper’s response above. Assuming this is a legit case - just procedurally in the correct court, filed properly, etc - nothing to do with the actual “legit” merits. And assuming they actually issued the subpoena correctly, which is not easy so I’d assume they’d need a lawyer to get that far into the case and not already have the case dismissed immediately after filing…then…Thomas can do the following:

If it can be enforced (in the same State, or Fed Court), Thomas would reply by phone or letter that he’s not available on that arbitrary day/time for plausible reasons - practically, no one is going to enforce this subpoena against Thomas without trying to work with his availability - manners are a thing, sometimes legally required. Then, and also, or only, Thomas’s lawyers will file a motion to quash it (have the Judge legally make it go away) - Thomas would say it’s defective and was not issued correctly and/or substantively there is no meritorious reason why they need Thomas to testify in this nutjob’s case. But again, I just don’t see how this kind of case would ever get this far. If they actually got it filed properly and it’s a civil case against Thomas - he’s the Defendant, it would get dismissed right after by super competent lawyers Thomas would have access to.

If it’s not a case against Thomas and he was just named as a “witness” in some nuts lawsuit, then I’m not really sure how Thomas is an actual legit witness in that case and I’d think the Judge would agree when Thomas files a motion to quash.

If it was a legit case against Thomas, then we’d be hearing about it in the NYT and not on a Youtube channel (or worse). I know you know that and are just asking about the mechanics of a subpoena, but that’s for anyone wondering and a decent quick check on the quality of a lawsuit. It seems the hypo is jumping far into the case and ignoring what it would take to get to the discovery phase/issuing subpoenas, but in reality it would just never get that far.

That was the case here.

This is usually the situation. What can a CEO or SCOTUS judge testify to that has relevance, that someone closer to the case cannot give more detail on? Government or corporate policy? The expert for the relevvant department is probably the best person to articulate why a particular course of action was followed.

If it’s a nutjob who actually somehow got a warrant issued over some legal matter such as a previous ruling, then there’s also the complication that - AFAIK, IANAL - judges don’t get questioned and have to testify about how they came up with a judgement. It is the ruling from the bench, case closed. For any questions, refer to the judgement as issued. f you want to dispute it, appeal to the higher court. If the ruling is from SCOTUS, then sucks to be you, that’s the final judgement.

As CoolHand says, most likely a court would quash the warrant anyway. Otherwise, it would be appealed all the way up to SCOTUS where 8 other judges get to decide “can any nutjob with a grudge subpoena a Supreme justice?” Hmmm…

Under the US Federal Rules, the clerk “must issue a subpoena, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party who requests it.” They can also be issued by attorneys, which has become standard and certainly my experience. But I read this rule to pretty much allow a pro se to serve a subpoena on anyone he wants (which prior approval of the court).

Clarence Thomas is in the news again that he amended his “gift registry”.I saw someone from the senate discussing this issue on MSNBC yesterday, and they mentioned that the senate jusdicial subcommittee had considered subpoenaing Thomas to answer questions about his gifts, but decided not to. (They were concerned that with a squeaker majority, one or more of the Democratic members may not go along with this. “Pick your battles”.

My takeaway from this is that the senate can subpoena at least a non-chief SCOTUS justice, has the authority, if they choose to.

But this thread is not about Congress’ power of subpoena or even Clarence Thomas specifically. It’s about cases where some idiot off the street decided they need to subpoena, let’s say, Kamala Harris to testify at their speeding trial despite her having no knowlege of the case or the person on trial.

Have dealt with frivolous subpoenas in litigation. In addition to filing a motion to quash, as @Northern_Piper noted, one can seek a protective order against future subpoenas (and other discovery efforts) if a party is abusing the process, seeking irrelevant or privileged material, etc. There are requirements, of course (like attempting in good faith to resolve the discovery dispute prior to filing a motion), but both are generally better options that just failing to show up. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 and 45.

Congress definitely has the authority to subpoena anyone, including the Chief Justice, Associate Justices, President, etc. These individuals could resist the subpoena based on specific grounds, but there’s blanket immunity for judges from Congressional subpoenas.

Obviously, meant to say “no” blanket immunity for judges . . .