Subpoenas

A subpoena may be required if you need to:

  • look at or get documents or other things from an individual or company
  • get a witness to give evidence.

Unlike a court, ACAT does not have a discovery process or notices of production. However, we have a subpoena process.

How to get a subpoena issued

Step 1: Complete the form
  • fill in the subpoena form [PDF 122KB]
  • clearly identify what document or thing is to be produced, or who is required to give evidence
  • if it is for a company (to produce documents or a thing), you can address the subpoena to The Proper Officer at the company’s registered office.
Step 2: Send the subpoena and pay the fee
  • give ACAT the completed subpoena form and at least four copies (note, if there is more than one other party in the proceedings, you will need to give us extra copies)
  • pay the fee for issuing a subpoena, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

Once ACAT has your subpoena, we will decide if it can be issued. If issued, ACAT will contact you to arrange for you to collect the subpoena.

If ACAT decides not to issue the subpoena, we will contact you to tell you about the decision.

Step 3: Note the date for complying with the subpoena (the return date)

If the subpoena asks for a document or thing to be produced, it will be given a return date. This is the date and time when:

  • the material stated in the subpoena must be given to ACAT and
  • ACAT decides whether to make orders for the parties to access the material (see step 7 below for more information about what to expect on the return date).

If the subpoena is for a witness to give evidence, the witness will be required to attend ACAT on the hearing date (as written on the subpoena).

Step 4: Personally give the subpoena to the individual or company before the last day for service

You must personally give the subpoena to the individual or company receiving the subpoena. This is called service or serving the subpoena. You cannot post or email the subpoena, unless the subpoena recipient agrees to this in advance.

If the subpoena is for a company, it must be served in person to the company’s registered office.

You will need to follow the interstate subpoena process (see below) if the subpoena is for someone located outside of the ACT.

You must serve the subpoena no later than five days before the return date or hearing date (or by the date specified in any ACAT orders). The last day for service of the subpoena will be written on the subpoena when you get it back from ACAT.

The earlier you serve the subpoena, the better.

If you want to have a subpoena issued less than five days before the hearing, you need to ask ACAT for an order for short service (use the application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB] to ask for short service).

Step 5: Complete an affidavit of service and give it to ACAT

After you have personally served the subpoena, you need to make a sworn statement (an affidavit) about how and when the subpoena was served. You can use ACAT’s template affidavit of service [DOC 22KB].

You need to give the completed affidavit to ACAT:

  • prior to the return date (for documents or things) or
  • prior to the hearing date (for witnesses to give evidence).
Step 6: Give a copy of the subpoena to the other parties in the case

You need to give one copy of the subpoena to each party to the proceedings as soon as practical after you have served the subpoena, usually at least three days before the return date.

Step 7: Attend the return of the subpoena (this applies to subpoenas for documents or things only)

The parties in the case should attend ACAT on the return date (and time). The subpoena recipient can also attend.

The parties can ask ACAT to make orders allowing them to look at the documents or things produced (to ACAT). This is called an access order and usually lets the parties inspect, copy and/or photocopy the material produced. There is a fee to inspect and/or photocopy documents at ACAT.

The 'usual' access order is either:

  • immediate access to all parties or
  • one party has exclusive first access for a certain number of days after the order is made then all other parties have access.

If there is an objection to the subpoena, ACAT will listen to the reasons for the objection and the views of the parties, and make a decision about the objection. The objection could be from the person receiving the subpoena or from a party involved in the case. If the subpoena recipient intends to object to an access order, they need to attend ACAT on the return date.

You can ask to attend the return of subpoena by telephone at least five days before the return date.

Step 8: Inspect and/or photocopy the documents or things

If ACAT makes an access order, you can make an appointment to look at the material produced in response to the subpoena. These usually take 30 minutes and are held at ACAT.

To make an appointment, email ACAT at tribunal@acat.gov.au with three different times and dates that you are able to look at the material.

There is a fee for photocopying documents at ACAT.

Conduct money

If you are serving a subpoena, you need to give the individual or company who receives it money for complying with the subpoena. This is called conduct money. This money is usually to pay the cost of travelling to ACAT in response to the subpoena, or for sending the subpoenaed material to ACAT.

If the person or organisation who receives the subpoena is not a party to the proceedings, you may also be required to pay their reasonable costs for complying with the subpoena.

Interstate subpoenas

If you need to serve a subpoena on a person who is located outside the ACT, you must first get leave (permission) from the ACT Magistrates Court.

The last date for service of an interstate subpoena is 14 days before the hearing, or the date specified in any ACAT orders.

To make sure that you have enough time to arrange for an interstate subpoena, you should allow at least 21 days before the hearing or return date.

Find out more in the:

How to make an application for leave

Complete and provide to ACAT:

When preparing the forms, please complete them in full and remember the subpoena recipient must receive the subpoena at least 14 days before the return date. If there is less than 14 days available before the return date, you must ask the ACT Magistrates Court for orders for short service. You should contact the subpoena recipient to see if they will be able to comply with the shorter timeframe.

Once you have prepared the forms:

  • send or take the original three forms to ACAT
  • pay the fee for issuing a subpoena, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

ACAT will arrange for your application for leave to be taken to the ACT Magistrates Court. The Court will then usually consider your application in chambers (without a hearing). You will not need to attend the Court for this.

ACAT will be told when a decision is made and we will then contact you.

Interstate service

If your application for leave is granted, you can then collect the subpoena and arrange to serve the subpoena.

Remember when serving the subpoena:

I've received a subpoena

A subpoena recipient (or addressee) is the individual or company who is required to comply with a subpoena.

What do I do?

If you are a subpoena recipient, you need to read the subpoena carefully so you know what you are required to do. Depending on the type of subpoena you have received, you will need to:

  • produce to ACAT the required documents or things (the subpoena will tell you the time and date you need to do this by)
  • attend ACAT to give evidence at the hearing (the subpoena will tell you the time and date that you are required to attend ACAT to give evidence)
  • produce documents or things and give evidence (the subpoena will tell you the time and date to produce documents or things and give evidence).

When you provide documents or things to ACAT, fill out and give to ACAT the 'declaration of subpoena recipient'. You will find this declaration attached to the back of the subpoena. The documents should also be provided to ACAT in a clearly labelled envelope or box.

If you do not have the requested documents or things, please advise ACAT and the person who gave you the subpoena.

Electronic material produced in response to a subpoena

If you are producing material in response to a subpoena electronically, put all the subpoenaed material on a USB, CD or DVD and give it to ACAT by the date stated in the subpoena (the return date). Please provide two complete copies of any material that is produced electronically.

The USBs, CDs or DVDs need to be given to ACAT in a sealed envelope with the envelope clearly stating:

  • the matter name and number (ACAT case reference number)
  • the name of the person/company lodging the USB, CD or DVD
  • that it contains subpoena documents.

Make sure when you are responding to the subpoena, that you fill in the 'declaration of recipient'. This is at the back of the subpoena.

If a party in a case wants to use subpoenaed material as evidence, the party will be need to provide those specific documents to ACAT in hardcopy or ask permission for them to be viewed electronically at the hearing.

Find out more about technology options (see our accessibility information).

How to object to a subpoena

There are some grounds on which you can object to a subpoena. You can get legal advice about whether or not you have grounds to object.

If you object to producing documents or things, you need to attend ACAT at the time and date stated in the subpoena (known as the 'return date') to explain your objection.

If you object to a party in the case inspecting or copying the documents or things you have produced, you will also need to attend ACAT on the return date to explain your objection.

If you object to giving evidence, you need to attend ACAT at the time and date stated in the subpoena and explain your objection.

If you are going to object, tell ACAT and the parties in the case before you attend ACAT. You should set out:

  • your name and contact details
  • the ACAT case name and reference number
  • why you object to the subpoena (if you only object to part of the subpoena, tell us which part and why)
  • any relevant facts and law.

You may decide to get legal advice and/or representation.

Can I give evidence by telephone?

If you have received a subpoena to give evidence, you can ask ACAT if you are allowed to give your evidence by telephone. Review our information about telephone attendance.

Conduct money and reasonable costs

If you have received a subpoena, you are entitled to conduct money (see above).

If you have received a subpoena and you are not a party in the ACAT case, you can also ask the person who gave you the subpoena for your reasonable costs for complying with the subpoena.

If you think you will incur costs, it is a good idea to tell the issuing party before complying with the subpoena.

More information

We have more information about:

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.