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Office of General Counsel

Court Papers FAQ

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Service of process involves delivery of a special type of court order to an individual or entity, such as the University.  The type of process you are most likely to encounter as an employee of the University is a “subpoena” requesting that records be turned over and/or that personal testimony be given, or a personal appearance be made. On more infrequent occasions, you might receive a document apparently generated by a court, but bearing a different title (such as, “complaint”).  Regardless of how the document is titled, you should alert the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) if you receive any document that appears to be issued from a court.

A subpoena is a legal document that commands a person or entity to testify as a witness at a specified time and place (at a deposition, trial, or other hearing), and/or to produce documents or other tangible objects in a legal proceeding.  Subpoenas are time-sensitive with court-imposed deadlines. A summons means that the University or one of its employees is being sued.
A subpoena can be issued by a court clerk, an attorney, or a self-represented individual, using court-supplied forms. Subpoenas can be issued in criminal cases, in private (“civil”) lawsuits; they may also be issued by government agencies conducting their own investigations and proceedings, administrative or criminal (e.g., IRS, SEC, FBI, DHS). A summons can only be issued by the court clerk.
Not necessarily – subpoenas are often issued to persons or entities who are not parties to the lawsuit, known as “third parties.”  The University typically is served with “third party” subpoenas.  
There are rules that prescribe the proper manner in which court papers should be served. Despite these rules, the University receives summons and subpoenas in a variety of forms – via process server, mail (certified, registered and first-class), even email and fax. It is important that you document when, how and where you received the court papers, as these factors may affect the validity of the papers. OGC will sort out the issues regarding the manner of service.
The typical subpoena issued and served on the University is a subpoena for records and may be addressed to the “Custodian of Records” or to a department with a physical location listed (e.g., Registrar's Office).  This type of subpoena should be personally served, and received by the appropriate custodian of records.  Occasionally, the custodian is not specified, and process servers will simply leave the subpoena with the most convenient person. Whoever receives the subpoena – regardless of whether they are the proper custodian – should fill out the “Receiving Court Papers – University Employees” form (linked here) and transmit the subpoena and attachments to OGC immediately via subpoenaFREEMississippi. Consult OGC if you have questions about who can receive service.    
Court papers addressed to a particular named person rather than the University can generally only be received by that person.  Consult OGC if you have questions about who can receive service. Please note, however, that the OGC cannot provide legal support or advice for matters related to personal issues.   
OGC has created a form titled “Receiving Court Papers – University Employees” (linked here) which contains valuable information about what to do when you are served. Simply access the form, fill it out in full, and transmit the form and all documents that were served upon you to OGC via subpoenaFREEMississippi. There are very important deadlines for responding or objecting to court papers, so you must forward the form and all of the papers to OGC immediately upon receipt. Do not ignore these court papers, even if they address something you are unfamiliar with or ask for documents you don't have. Failure to respond to court papers could result in you or the University being sanctioned by the court.
YES!  OGC is just a call or click away. Our contact information is on this page.
No. You must not turn over documents to a process server, and you are not required to respond to questions from the process server. If you receive court papers, tell the server only that you will route the papers to the appropriate office and the University will respond accordingly. The University is allowed a reasonable time to respond, and OGC will coordinate the appropriate response to such legal inquiries. Under no circumstances should any information be disclosed or University documents be released without prior notification and approval from the Office of General Counsel.



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Hattiesburg, MS 39406

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The content on this site is for informational and educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.