A subpoena can be issued under the authority of a court or similar body (for example,
a grand jury, a judicial board of inquiry, etc.), or a government agency, but a subpoena
is not to be treated as a “court order” unless it is signed by a judge. Therefore, the court order exception to the PA's
prohibition on disclosure without consent usually does not apply to subpoenas.
As with court orders, a subpoena may or may not be binding on SSA, depending on whether
the subpoena is issued by a court of competent jurisdiction and other factors.
A subpoena can be recognized as such because it usually has the word “Subpoena” in large letters near the top of the document. SSA receives many official-looking
or legal-looking documents from record copy services and the like. These should not
be confused with subpoenas.
GN 03330.015.C. below discusses how to handle subpoenas which SSA or an SSA employee may receive.