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— by Dana Heyde

This month, as I prepared a case for trial, I ran through my checklist of things to do which included: lodge exhibits, write trial brief, and serve subpoenas.

One of the key witnesses who would help prove my client’s position was a woman who operated her own accountant agency. Within minutes of being served with the Subpoena for Personal Appearance at Trial, I received a frantic phone call from her.

She emphatically proclaimed she did not want to be a witness. I said I understood, then calmly explained she didn’t have a choice. Our legal system permits litigants to call anyone as a witness who may help their case.

Next, she demanded to know how she can be forced to appear absent a court order. I explained that the subpoena is a court order requiring a witness to appear at the start of trial and appear each day until she testifies. I humbly informed her that as an attorney I have the ability to issue a subpoena to just about anyone, which carries with it the same power of a court order.

I could hear the panic in her voice as she outlined her concerns about leaving her business for even one day. As an owner of a law firm, I completely understood her position. Small businesses need their owners and often can’t operate without them.

I needed to call her as a witness, but to show that I respected her time, if she would agree to sign an “on call” agreement where she would arrive in court within an hour of a call from me, then I wouldn’t require that she sit through each day of trial as required under the subpoena.

My interest in this witness was to advance my client’s case, not disturb her business.

I saw the “on call” agreement as the perfect compromise, and so did she, because she signed it even though she was still upset at being called as a witness.

If you are ever required to take time away from your business in a similar manner, I suggest communicating with the lawyer seeking information from you. If the lawyer is like me, he or she will want to work with you and your schedule. A simple phone call can be all it takes to reassure you that your business won’t suffer while you fulfill a civic duty.

danaheydeDana Heyde is a Partner at Cottle Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde in Orange, where the firm has had a continuing presence in the community for over twenty-five years. CKLH focuses on Civil Litigation, Family Law, and Estate Planning. CKLH works closely with each client to understand their objectives and guide them through the legal process. CKLH would be honored to help you with your legal needs.