Policy on Subpoenas for University Records

As an institution of higher education, Tufts University maintains detailed and confidential information regarding many individuals and entities (e.g. students, faculty, staff, and third parties doing business with Tufts).  As such, Tufts often receives subpoenas requiring the timely production of records or information pertaining to specific individuals or entities involved in potential or ongoing litigation.  This policy formalizes our procedures for responding to such subpoenas. 

GENERAL INFORMATION

A subpoena may require an individual to do any of the following:

  1. Produce papers, records, books, or other physical items (including electronic records) for inspection and/or copying;
  2. Appear and testify in person at a trial, hearing, or other court proceeding; and/or
  3. Appear in person for a deposition before trial and/or produce documents at the deposition.

If you are served with a subpoena that only requires your presence (i.e., it does not request records) you should contact University Counsel immediately.  These guidelines are intended to address only subpoenas that request documents.

A subpoena is a legal document compelling the production of certain designated materials that may be relevant to a pending judicial proceeding.  The person or department responding to such a subpoena typically must have control, custody, or possession of the requested materials.

Before responding to a subpoena you must consult with University Counsel to determine whether the subpoena is valid and enforceable.  Examples of valid subpoenas are:

  1. A subpoena issued by a Massachusetts State court.  A subpoena is generally not considered valid if it is issued by another state court.  This rule applies for both civil and criminal cases.
  2. A subpoena issued by a Massachusetts Federal court.  In federal civil cases, a subpoena may be issued by a judge within the federal district of Massachusetts or by a federal judge in another district, if the production of documents is limited to a place within 100 miles of the campus of Tufts University.  In federal criminal cases, there are no jurisdictional restrictions on compliance with the subpoena. 

Generally, the target of a subpoena is given approximately a couple weeks from the date of service to respond.  However, there are occasions when a court may decrease or extend this time period.  For this reason, it is always important to verify the due date, which should be clearly stated on the subpoena.  Where a subpoena seeks documents that are maintained by more than one department, University Counsel will coordinate the collection of documents from the various departments.

Documents requested by subpoena should be delivered to the requesting party on or before the date designated in the subpoena.  The University must keep a record of both the subpoena and any records produced.  The recipient of the subpoena must coordinate with University Counsel before disclosing any documents requested.

SPECIFIC RECORDS

Employment Records

Subpoenas requesting employment records of staff personnel should be directed to the Human Resources Service Center.  A copy should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.

Subpoenas requesting employment records of faculty should be directed to the office, college, or school in which such faculty member is/was employed.  A copy should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.

The following procedures should be followed when producing documents of any kind:

  1. Make sure that the subpoena includes either the employee’s social security number or university identification number to ensure that we are retrieving the records of the correct individual.
  2. All files must be reviewed to ensure that personal information relating to persons not named in the subpoena is either excluded or redacted.

Student Records

The Registrar’s Office may respond to valid subpoenas seeking transcripts only.  Subpoenas seeking “any and all” records maintained by the University or subpoenas seeking additional records maintained by other departments should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.

Before disclosing student records, the University must usually notify the student of the subpoena.  This notice is required by law and provides the student time and opportunity to challenge the subpoena, if the student cares to do so.

The college or school where the student is (or was) enrolled will respond to requests for admissions or academic records.

The college or school where the student is (or was) enrolled and the Office of the Dean of Students will respond to requests for disciplinary records.

In all cases a copy should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.

The following procedures should be followed when producing student records of any kind:

  1. Make sure that the subpoena includes either the student’s social security number or university identification number to ensure that we are retrieving the records of the correct individual.
  2. All files must be reviewed to ensure that personal information relating to persons not named in the subpoena is either excluded or redacted.

Medical Records

A subpoena or a request from an attorney representing a Tufts student, staff, or faculty member requesting protected health information (PHI) concerning that student, staff, or faculty member must be accompanied by a valid document authorizing the requested disclosure.

A subpoena from an attorney representing a third party who is requesting PHI concerning a Tufts student, staff, or faculty member must be accompanied by at least one of the following documents before records may be released:

  1. A valid authorization to disclose the PHI signed by the target of the subpoena;
  2. A certificate of compliance from the attorney that contains all of the requirements under HIPAA;
    or
  3. A court order for the release of the requested information.

Any requests for psychiatric records of a student, staff, or faculty member should be directed to the Director of the Counseling Center.  Requests for all other medical records of a student, staff, or faculty member should be directed to the Director of Health Services.

In all cases, a copy of the subpoena should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.

Law Enforcement Records

Subpoenas requesting law enforcement records of a student, staff, or faculty member should be directed to the Director of Public Safety.  A copy should be forwarded to the Office of University Counsel.