Legal Documents Directed to the University: What to Do

Summonses, Subpoenas, and Other Legal Documents Directed to the University: What To Do

The purpose of this notice is to provide guidance to University personnel about what to do if you are presented with official legal documents directed to the University. It is important that these procedures are followed so that the University may coordinate its responses and comply as appropriate with any legal obligations that these documents may impose. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) immediately.

The University has not authorized employees or faculty members to accept service of legal documents directed to the University (this includes the University itself as well as any office, department, or school of the University). All service of legal documents directed to the University must be made through the OGC at 412 Low Memorial Library.

Examples of legal documents covered by this guidance include, among other things, subpoenas seeking testimony or the production of documents from the University, summonses or complaints notifying the University that a lawsuit has been commenced against it, and notices of legal matters such as bankruptcy proceedings or garnishment orders. Such legal documents are sometimes addressed to the University itself – “Columbia University” or “Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.” They could also be addressed to specific offices, departments, or schools 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 sheriff’s officer or a commercial process agent).

If you are contacted by a process server seeking to deliver any legal document (such as a summons or a subpoena) directed to the University, you must not accept the document, but instead must direct the process server to the OGC at 412 Low Memorial Library. You must tell the process server that you do not have authority to accept service of the legal document, that the document will not be delivered to whichever unit of the University it is addressed, and that the document must be taken to OGC (412 Low Memorial Library). OGC will determine whether service of the document can be accepted by the University.

If a lawyer or process server contacts you to ask how to serve the University, your office, department or school with a subpoena, summons, or any other legal document, please refer them to OGC. Do not give permission to effect service by email or fax; service must be made by hand unless OGC has specifically authorized an alternative method of service.

If you receive a legal document by mail, please contact OGC immediately, and provide OGC with the complete contents of whatever you received, including the envelope (showing the return address, delivery address, and postmark). It is important that you do so promptly so that the University may evaluate the matters and comply with any applicable deadlines.

If you are contacted by an attorney regarding a University matter, please refer the attorney to the Office of the General Counsel.