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How-To: Draft a Federal Court Summons

Background: You are litigating a case in federal court
Problem: You are unsure about how to create the summons
Solution: You follow this guide for drafting a successful federal court summons

I. Definitions

"A mandate requiring the appearance of the defendant under penalty of having judgment entered against him for failure to appear. The object of the summons is to notify the defendant that he has been sued."

II. Legal Citations

(b) Rule 4 Fed. R. Civ. P. | SUMMONS
"(b) ISSUANCE. On or after filing the complaint, the plaintiff may present a summons to the clerk for signature and seal. If the summons is properly completed, the clerk must sign, seal, and issue it to the plaintiff for service on the defendant. A summons — or a copy of a summons that is addressed to multiple defendants — must be issued for each defendant to be served."
"(1) The United States marshals or deputy marshals shall routinely collect, and a court may tax as costs, fees for the following:
(A) Serving a writ of possession, partition, execution, attachment in rem, or libel in admiralty, warrant, attachment, summons, complaints, or any other writ, order or process in any case or proceeding."

III. Samples

# PDF Comments
1logoAdobe✓ Issued. TBD case. Fill in form. Clerk added the case number. FL.iconPriceTag
2logoAdobe✓ Issued. ✓ Served. Attorney Filing. Fill in Form (AO440). NY. iconPriceTag
3logoAdobe✓ Issued. ✓ Served. Attorney Filing. Fill in Form (AO440). Multiple people served. NY. iconPriceTag
4logoAdobe✓ Issued. ✓ Served. Attorney Filing. Fill in Form (AO440). NY. iconPriceTag
5logoAdobe✓ Issued. ✓ Served. Attorney Filing. Fill in Form (AO440). Handwritten. NY. iconPriceTag

IV. Forms

# Link Comments
1[Official Form] | Waiver of Summons Requirement | Type your information on the pageFree
2[Official Form] | Summons to be Issued | Type your information on the page.Free
3[Official Form] | US Marshal Service Request | Type your information on the pageFree

V. Quick Commentary

  • You must summon the defendant in order to notify him/her that he/she is being sued.
  • You are responsible for drafting the summons.
    • The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the official form (see Part IV - above).
      • Note: If you haven't been assigned a case number yet then leave that part empty (the Clerk will add it)
  • Please download as many sample documents as you'd like.
  • Proofread your document as much as possible.
  • Save the final version as a PDF file.
  • File it with your federal court
  • The Clerk of the Court will stamp it and issue it back to you. She will also send you Form USM285.
    • It may take 6-8 weeks for the Clerk to issue it.
    • Get it served thereafter:

      Option A: US Marshal
      • Step #0: Fill out Form USM285 (click here to download).
      • Step #1: Assemble the Package:
        • Process Service Memorandum (Download Template)
        • Order Granting Forma Pauperis Status (ie, Certificate of Civil Indigency)
        • USM285
        • Complaint
        • Your Contact Information
      • Step #2: File it with the Clerk.
      • Step #3: Remit payment

      Option B: Private Process Server
      • Step #1: Assemble the Package
        • Process Service Memorandum (Download Template)
        • Summons (2 copies!)
        • Complaint
        • Your Contact Information
        • Delivery Envelope (to house the summons/etc.)
        • Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope
      • Step #2: Deliver it to the Server (either by mail or in-person)
      • Step #3: Pay the Server (usually $60-135)
        • Note: Private process servers do not have to honor a Certificate of Civil Indigency.

VI. Additional Notes

  • Please review TBD's Analysis on the Prevalance of Federal Court Summonses for more information.
  • At first, TBD found the summoning process to be rather bewildering; and mechanical. After using this self-created guide, however, TBD has gained mastery of the method. Please use this guide to master the process as well.
  • The procedure for a state summons is very similar.
  • Of course, this operation differs from how you must proceed at DOAH.
  • Note: This is a very important competency to have! Once you master the ability to summon a defendant you will empower yourself to limit reliance on attorneys and the legal system. Thereby, reducing the likelihood of someone violating you in the first place.

VII. Additional resources

  • Item 13.03, Pro Se Handbook (USNYWD)
    • see the 'Summons for a Civil action' instructions

VIII. Conclusion

In short, you must summon the defendant in your federal court proceeding (unless the defendant has waived service - see Rule 4(d) Fed. R. Civ. P.; also see IV.1 (above)).

If you are indigent, the Marshal will serve the defendant for free.


Congratulations! You are now booked up on federal court summonses!

Please get the justice you deserve.


Pages That You
Might Also Like
How-To: Process Service
How-To: State Court Summons
How-To: Waive Summons
Item 13.03 USNYWD's Pro Se Handbook
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