Don’t Forget About Your Witnesess When the Case Settles

I just reached a settlement in a case that was set for trial next week. Obviously that is great news for my client, who now has some closure on a difficult period in his life.
But memorializing the agreement and having the clerk remove the case from the docket doesn’t mean the end of my job when it comes to settlement.

I had subpoenaed three witnesses to appear for trial: an independent “bystander” witness, a traffic engineer from the State Highway Administration, and a police officer. I made sure to contact each of these witnesses as soon as the case resolved to let them know they would not need to appear. They really appreciated that I let them know. The traffic engineer in particular made it a point to let me know how often attorneys subpoena witnesses from his office and then do not let them know when the case settles. Then they travel to court for nothing.

I can’t believe that. It’s just unprofessional, and arguably violates Md. Rule 2-510(h), which states that “[a] party or an attorney responsible for the issuance and service of a subpoena shall take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or cost on a person subject to the subpoena.” As far as I’m concerned, not telling a witness under subpoena that the case settled and they don’t have to appear causes the witness “undue burden or cost.”

So just a reminder, when your case settles right before trial, make sure to notify the witnesses. That way you can save them the hassle and missed time from work of showing up at court for no reason.