Summonses, Subpoenas, and Other Legal Notices: What To Do

From time to time, University personnel receive official legal documents. Examples include subpoenas requiring the University to produce copies of records in court proceedings, summonses notifying the University that a lawsuit has been commenced against it, notices of bankruptcy, and notices informing the University of its right to participate in consumer class action suits. Such notices are sometimes addressed to the University itself -- "Harvard University" or "President and Fellows of Harvard College," the University's legal name -- or to individually named officials of the University. In some instances, legal notices are received by mail; in other instances, they may be hand-delivered by a "process server" (such as a constable or deputy sheriff).

In general, you should not accept a summons or subpoena that is addressed to another individual or department, unless that individual or department has specifically authorized you to accept service. If you do not have explicit and specific authority to accept service of a summons or subpoena addressed to another individual or department, you should tell the process server that you do not have authority to accept service of the document, that the document will not be delivered to the individual or department to whom it is addressed, and that the document should be taken to the Office of the General Counsel (Smith Campus Center 980), which will determine whether it can be accepted by the University.

If a lawyer or process server contacts you to ask how to serve your office, department or school with a subpoena or summons, never give permission to allow service by facsimile transmission (fax).  Tell such callers that the subpoena or summons must be hand delivered to the Office of the General Counsel.

If you do receive a summons or subpoena involving University business, please inform the Office of the General Counsel immediately, preferably the same day. You should also keep a record of the date, time and method (by hand or mail) by which you received the notice. It is best to contact Ranna Farzan at 496-3006 or Email. If she is not available, please contact Diane Lopez at 496-4172.  If you cannot reach one of these people, please contact any of the University Attorneys in the General Counsel's Office.

If you are contacted by an attorney for any reason, please refer the attorney to the Office of the General Counsel.