Policy on Handling of Legal Issues by CAES Faculty and Staff

From time to time, CAES faculty and staff are called upon by attorneys to provide information related to pending or on-going legal issues and/or litigation.  In some cases employees may receive a subpoena or a summons to appear in court to testify, and in other cases they may be asked to produce documents or simply to answer questions.  The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines to our employees in handling such matters.


Subpoenas, Lawsuits and Other Legal Documents:

If an employee receives, either through mail or personal service, a subpoena, summons, lawsuit, or other legal document related to his/her employment, they must immediately forward that document to the Office of Legal Affairs.  At the same time a copy should be sent to the employee’s immediate supervisor, the appropriate Associate Dean/s and the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  The preferred method of transmitting documents is either by hand delivery or by fax.  If necessary, the employee may scan the documents and send as an email attachment.  However, the employee should refrain from discussing the details of the case in the body of the email.  This is better handled by phone call.  Email documents are considered part of the permanent record and are subject to release under the Georgia Open Records Act.


If the employee is subpoenaed to appear in court or to provide a deposition, typically someone in UGA Legal Affairs will contact the employee beforehand to advise them.  If time constraints prevent the employee from seeking advice from legal affairs beforehand, they should appear as ordered by the court and answer questions.  Provide only factual information.  The employee is advised to refrain from engaging in speculation or stating personal opinions.


Failure to comply with this procedure could result in the forfeiture of the right to be represented by the Attorney General’s Office or to be covered by the Board of Regents Professional Liability Plan.


Contact From Attorneys other Than Through Written Documents:

In some cases an employee may be contacted by an attorney either by phone or by email.  As soon as the employee becomes aware that the request relates to a legal matter, they should refer the individual to UGA Legal Affairs.  The employee may answer basic questions or provide printed materials that are available in the public domain.  If the information requested relates to specific clientele or the attorney requests documents that would not normally be available to the public, they should be referred to the open records manager in the Office of Public Affairs.  This type information would normally need to be requested by the attorney through the open records request process.  In addition to referring the individual to UGA Public Affairs, the employee should also call their immediate supervisor and make them aware of the contact. 


Providing Legal Services as a Consultant:

CAES faculty members are often asked to serve as expert witnesses.  Employees may not serve as expert witnesses in the course of their employment without prior approval from the Dean and the Office of Legal Affairs.  It may be admissible to serve in such cases as a private consultant as long as the faculty member follows the proper procedure to gain administrative approval for such activities.  These procedures are outlined in the UGA Faculty Consulting Policy.  If the faculty member is serving in the capacity of a consultant, it shall be understood that they will be acting on their own accord and will not be representing the positions of the University of Georgia.  Faculty members who engage in these outside activities are encouraged to ensure that they are covered by a private professional liability insurance policy.  They will not be covered under the Board of Regents Professional Liability Plan.


In such cases, faculty members are strongly encouraged to refrain from becoming involved in cases which could constitute a conflict of interest with their professional duties or with other activities of the University of Georgia.  In general, faculty members who have an Extension appointment will not be approved for in-state consulting for this reason.  Research and Teaching faculty could also be denied for in-state consulting if it is deemed that there is a significant probability of a conflict of interest.