"You are hereby commanded to appear": Pediatrician subpoena and court appearance in child maltreatment

Vincent J. Palusci, Ralph A. Hicks, Frank E. Vandervort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine the frequency of court appearance by pediatricians evaluating child abuse and neglect cases and to identify case characteristics associated with actual court appearance or case adjournment. Design. Retrospective review of subpoenas received between 1995 and 1999 for child maltreatment cases personally evaluated by 2 pediatricians during the years 1995 to 1998. Information was collected regarding patient age, gender, race/ethnicity, type of suspected maltreatment, date of evaluation, date of subpoena, type of court hearing, whether the pediatrician actually testified in court, and legal outcomes. Case characteristics were compared between pediatricians and were used to predict physician appearance and case continuance or adjournment in logistic regression models. Results. Four hundred forty-five subpoenas concerning 260 patients were received. Although significant differences were noted between the pediatricians in type of abuse, no differences were found in patient age, gender, ethnicity or legal outcomes. The pediatricians received subpoenas in <15% of child maltreatment cases, and <5% of children seen resulted in the physician being required to actually appear in court. No case characteristics significantly predicted court appearance or case continuance or adjournment. Conclusions. Although pediatricians are sometimes subpoenaed to appear in court to explain the medical evaluation and the needs of the child in cases of child abuse and neglect, most court cases were continued, adjourned, or settled before physician testimony. Most subpoenas did not result in the pediatrician going to court, and it is unclear which child factors may predict court involvement. Pediatricians can take steps to minimize (but not eliminate) the potential dissatisfaction and inconvenience associated with receiving and responding to subpoenas in child maltreatment cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1427-1431
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 21 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Child abuse
  • Child maltreatment
  • Court appearance
  • Subpoena

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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