It seems like a matter of common sense that if someone regularly and systematically does business within the United States, that person or business should reasonably expect to be summoned or subpoenaed when necessary, either to produce relevant documents, or to produce a witness to testify about a topic only that company knows about.
Such a simple matter of due process seems like a relatively straightforward matter of American civil procedure. It has been largely non-controversial for decades. However, recently, large corporations have gotten strong enough to test the patience (and resources) of litigants, including government officials.
For example, take Amazon and Google.
Amazon has appointed a registered agent for service of process in New York (CT Corporation), so why not just serve Amazon with a subpoena duces tecum?
Apparently, it's not so simple.
An article published on AssociatesMind.com details how Amazon does not typically cooperate with, nor respond to, routine subpoenas for documents. Amazon allegedly forces all litigants to seek a third party subpoena from the Thurston County Clerk's office in Washington State, where Amazon's headquarters is located.
Such a process is likely to cost a litigant thousands of dollars in legal fees. Further, if Amazon objects to the scope of the subpoena, an out-of-state litigant would need to retain local counsel in Olympia, Washington, to litigate a motion to compel there.
Amazon's obstructive efforts are no idle threat. In one criminal case, a Grand Jury sitting in Wisconsin sought a representative sample of used book buyers, in a criminal case involving mail fraud and wire fraud there.
Amazon issued its usual blanket objections, forcing the issue to be litigated in federal court. Ultimately, the federal government backed down.
The standard response on the Internet was to applaud Amazon's resistance. But before applauding Amazon's seeming defense of privacy rights, think about the precedent set here...
A legitimately convened Grand Jury had decided that Amazon's documents were relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
Amazon was able to hire an army of private lawyers to successfully keep its business records from the Grand Jury. Despite its claims, Amazon was not interested solely in the pursuit of noble privacy. Amazon was protecting its business, by telegraphing that it is not held to the same standards of disclosure and due process as everyone else.
Google does the same thing.
Why should wealthy multinational corporations be entitled to use the threat of protracted, expensive litigation to frustrate due process?
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