Subpoenaing Evidence and Witnesses

Reasonable limitations may be placed on the number and scope of witnesses that may be compelled to testify at an administrative hearing.[i]  Moreover, procedural due process does not require that parties to a hearing must be provided with an absolute or independent right to subpoena witnesses.  However, in Abbott Transp., Inc. v. Happy Cab Co. (In re Abbott Transp., Inc.), 2001 Neb. App. LEXIS 47 (Neb. Ct. App. Feb. 27, 2001), the court held that an administrative agency may not arbitrarily deny a request for the attendance of witnesses if their testimony may be necessary to build a complete record.  Although agency officials performing adjudicative functions are presumptively incompetent to testify, an agency employee with unique knowledge indispensable to the adjudication may be subject to a subpoena.[ii]

Although an administrative agency does not have inherent authority to issue subpoenas, it may be given the statutory authority to do so.  The 1981 Model State Administrative Procedure Act specifically provides that the presiding officer at an administrative proceeding may issue subpoenas in accordance with the rules of civil procedure.  The Federal Administrative Procedure Act, however, provides only that agency subpoenas may be issued as authorized by law.

[i] Foxy Lady, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 347 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. Ga. 2003)

[ii] Saunders County v. Metro. Utils. District-A, 11 Neb. App. 138 (Neb. Ct. App. 2002)


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