What To Do
University faculty and staff may, on occasion, receive legal documents relating to university matters. Some examples include (1) subpoenas requiring the university or university officials to produce records or provide testimony in court proceedings, (2) summonses notifying the university that a lawsuit has been commenced against it, (3) notices of bankruptcy, (4) notices requiring the university to garnish wages in satisfaction of judgments, and (5) notices informing the university of its right to participate in class action lawsuits. (For documents requesting education records concerning individual students, see Requests for Student Records.)
These legal documents are sometimes addressed to the university itself – "The George Washington University,” the university's legal name – and sometimes to university offices or individually named university employees.
In some instances, these documents are received in the mail or by e-mail. In other instances, they may be hand-delivered by a "process server."
When these legal documents are received in the mail, including certified mail and overnight mail, through other delivery such as FedEx, or by fax, they should immediately be carried or sent to OGC at 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 250. Be sure to include the envelope and certified mail return receipt (the “green card”). Also include a post-it or other separate piece of paper noting the date of receipt. Legal documents frequently include deadlines for responding and the university could be prejudiced if those deadlines are missed.
When these legal documents are delivered by a process server, that person should be directed to deliver the documents to OGC directly at 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 250.
When these legal documents are received by email they should be forwarded to OGC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do Not Accept Service of Legal Documents:
GW faculty and staff should not accept hand-delivery service of legal documents that are not addressed to them personally. This includes not accepting service of a summons or subpoena on behalf of the university. Faculty and staff should tell the process server that they do not have authority to accept service and that the document should be taken to OGC.
If a process server leaves a legal document in an office and then departs, the document (with its envelope, if any, and with a post-it or other separate piece of paper noting the time and date the process server left it) should immediately be carried or sent to OGC.
If a process server insists that a person accept a legal document that is not addressed to him or her personally, refuses to take the document to OGC as requested, and refuses to leave the office until service is accepted, George Washington Police Department should be called and asked to escort the process server out of the building. The faculty or staff member should then contact OGC to report the incident.
Some university offices and employees interact with federal agencies as part of their day-to-day work. This advisory does not prohibit these usual and customary interactions with federal agencies. However, employees are required to contact OGC under these circumstances:
- If a request is made for documents and that request is unusual and differs from normal day-to-day interactions. (For instance, if you receive a summons, subpoena or an unusual information request from a government agency.)
- If you believe or question whether you should "self-report" to the federal government. Voluntary disclosures of certain university records and information are prohibited by law or contract, so prior to making any voluntary disclosures, please check with OGC.
Request for Instructions on How to Serve Legal Documents:
If a lawyer or process server contacts you to ask how to serve a summons, subpoena or other legal document on your office, department or school or another GW employee, respond that you are not authorized to provide this information and direct the person to contact OGC.
If a lawyer or process server asks whether you will consent to accept service, tell them you will not.
If Documents Have Been Accepted:
If a person in your office not familiar with this guidance has accepted service of a summons, subpoena, or other legal document, please contact OGC immediately, preferably the same day. You should also make a record (on a post-it or other separate document) of the date, time and method (by hand or mail) through which the document was delivered and provide it to OGC.
Please contact OGC if you have any questions about this information.
- Subpoenas and Other Legal Notices
- Requests for Student Records
- Attorney Client Privilege
- Retaining Outside Counsel
- Advisory on Political Activities
- Calls, Visits, and Letters from Attorneys, Law Enforcement Officials, or Regulatory Agency Investigators
- Personal Representation and Personal Liability
- Signature Authority
- Unannounced Visits by Government Agents for Immigration Related Enforcement Actions
Office of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel
2100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 250
Washington, DC 20052