Small Claims - Subpoenas Print this Page
Phone: (415) 444-7040
Location: Civic Center, Hall of Justice, Room 113
Office Hours: 8:00am - 4:00pm

How to Subpoena a Small Claim Witness or Documents

It is helpful to bring a witness to the court hearing who knows, first-hand, the facts of the case and can support your point of view. Without a witness, parties will need documents, photos or other records to prove their case.

If a witness will not come to court voluntarily, or will not voluntarily provide the documents or records you need, you may subpoena the witness. A subpoena is a court order which compels a person to come to court. A subpoena duces tecum is a court order which compels a person to bring certain papers or records to court. These documents must be delivered to the Court on or before the date of the trial.

You may obtain a subpoena or a subpoena duces tecum from the Court. There is no fee for the issuance of a subpoena or a subpoena duces tecum. A copy of the subpoena must be delivered to the witness personally. Anyone, including you, may deliver the subpoena. You must return the original subpoena (the one with the seal on it) to the Court at the time of hearing. You must serve the copy of the subpoena on the witness.

A witness may ask for fees of $35 per day and $0.20 per mile each way for coming to court. Witness fees for peace officers are greater. If a witness asks for fees, the witness does not have to appear at the court hearing if the fees are not paid. The person who serves the subpoena should be prepared to pay the fees at the time of service if they are requested. If the witness does not ask for fees, you do not have to offer them.

To subpoena documents or other papers, you will need to know exactly which documents or papers you are seeking. A subpoena duces tecum must be served with a copy of a declaration, completed by you, describing the documents you need. The declaration is part of the subpoena that the clerk will give you.

After the subpoena is served, a completed proof of service form, along with the original subpoena, must be presented to the judicial officer at the time of the hearing. Do not deliver these documents to the Clerk's Office.


Small Claims Court is a special type of civil proceeding which is commonly referred to as the "People's Court" because attorneys are not allowed to represent either side. The rules are relatively simple and the hearings are less formal. Parties in small claims actions can resolve their disputes relatively quickly and inexpensively. The person who files the claim is called the plaintiff and the person being sued is called the defendant.
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