What is a subpoena?

   A subpoena (in legal procedure in England and the United States) is a process or a mandatory writ issued usually by a court or a quasi-judicial body, such as a legislative committee, directing the party named in the writ to appear at a certain time and place for the purpose of testifying or furnishing documentary evidence required in a legal proceeding or quasi-judicial hearing. In the United States many administrative agencies have statutory authority to issue subpoenas. A witness is served with a subpoena by having a copy of it delivered to him personally; at the time of delivery he is also shown the original subpoena and is paid a statutory fee. A witness who fails to appear in obedience to a subpoena may be punished for a contempt of court, and is liable also for damages sustained by the aggrieved party. The witness may, however, postpone his appearance for reasonable cause, such as illness or death in the family.
   In the United States, in those States having codes of civil procedure, subpoenas used in legal proceedings before a court may be issued in the name of the court by the attorney requesting the appearance of the witness; in other proceedings, such as supplementary proceedings, the subpoena must be signed by the court itself.