To obtain information, documents, and testimony from non-parties, you can use a Subpoena.
Parties are brought under the authority of the court with a Summons (which is served along with a Complaint), and by their participation in litigation, i.e. when they submit to the jurisdiction of the court by answering a complaint or appearing in court. Non-parties, such as witnesses and companies with relevant records, are brought under the authority of the court with a Subpoena.
Unfortunately, pro se parties must obtain their subpoenas from the clerk of the court, whereas members of the “bar” can write their own. But don’t let that deter you from using this valuable discovery tool.
There is great power in subpoenas. You can use a subpoena to ‘command’ a witness to appear at a hearing or trial and to testify to his or her knowledge of the facts; and, at the same time, command the witness to bring documents and other evidence with them for examination in court. You can use a subpoena to command a cell-phone provider to have a representative appear with phone records and testify to calls made to and from a particular number during a certain period of time. And you can use a subpoena to require attendance at a deposition.
Here is a Subpoena Duces Tecum (duces tecum means ‘bring with you’)
Note: This subpoena was not used. Subpoenas by pro se litigants must be presented to the clerk for the court’s seal. Also, many courts require usage of the court’s forms (see your local court rules).
Subpoenas give pro se litigants the same powers as attorneys to procure testimony to prove their claims.
The next lesson is about depositions.