Civil Subpoenas Unilaterally Issued by State Attorneys-General Are Constitutionally Suspect

Federal and state constitutional law traditionally left government no power to demand testimony, papers, or other information, except under the authority of a judge of legislative committee. In the absence of a legislative investigation, and prior to a court case, the government could demand information only by getting a warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause, or by asking a court overseeing a grand jury to issue a subpoena. Over the past century, however, the law has changed. Now, a government administrator or even an attorney general can simply demand information by issuing a subpoena under his own signature.

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