File Your Summons!

Often, when I’m waiting in line to check in at the courthouse, I’ll overhear a conversation in front of me that goes like this:

    Clerk: Where is your summons?
    Litigant: What summons?
    Clerk: The summons we gave you when you filed your complaint.
    Litigant:  I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
    Clerk: Well, we can’t have your hearing until you file the summons.  Come back another day.

Oy!  The summons is procedurally crucial.  The court needs to know that the Plaintiff (the initiating party) gave the Defendant proper notice of the court proceeding.  There are three ways the Plaintiff can provide proper service:
    1) The Plaintiff can serve the summons and complaint on the Defendant by constable.  In this scenario, the constable signs the summons and indicates when and where the constable served it on the Defendant.  The Plaintiff then brings the signed summons back to court.  
    2) The Defendant can accept service by signing the summons with notarization.  Here, the Defendant is essentially waiving his or her right to be served by constable and instead the Defendant voluntarily submits to the court proceeding.  The Plaintiff then brings the signed summons back to court.  
    3) If the Defendant is parts unknown, the Plaintiff can ask the court for permission to serve the Defendant by publishing the contents of the summons in a newspaper.  If the court allows it, the Plaintiff must file the newspaper tear sheet with the court, along with a returned, certified-mail envelope containing the summons, which was mailed to the Defendant’s last known address.

If you show up to court without one of the three above, the court will be concerned you failed to give the Defendant proper notice of the case and the court will most likely refuse to hear your case!