This article will provide guidance on How To Serve legal papers in the District of Columbia. When papers are to be filed in Court, it is the primary responsibility of the plaintiff to ensure that all parties involved in the case are entitled to receive a copy. Fundamentally, this is the role of the plaintiff to ensure that copies are given to the parties of the case in a manner that adequately completes the District of Columbia Process Service requirements.  

Additionally, the District of Columbia Process Service must be tailored in accordance with the requirement of the suit itself since different situations require different types of District of Columbia Process Service.


At the outset of the summons being issued,  it must be served at least thirty days before the date set for an initial hearing of the action to comply with the District of Columbia Process Service. This includes Sundays, legal holidays, and days that fall within a period during which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency. However, a summons may be served both during that period and for sixty days following that period if the summons is issued.

To serve a summons if the defendant has fled the District of Columbia or is not located, the summons may be delivered or left with a person over the age of sixteen who lives on or has possession of the property sought to be recovered. Within three calendar days of the day on which the summons is posted, a copy of the summons will be sent first class U.S. mail, postage prepaid, to those premises sought in the name of the person known to hold the premises, or if unknown, to those premises sought to be recovered according to District of Columbia Process Service.

A picture of the posted summons should be provided to the court if it is done by posting a copy of the District of Columbia Process Service on the premises. Visible timestamps on the picture are required to show the day and time the summons was posted.


At the plaintiff’s request, though, the Court may order that District of Columbia Process Service be accomplished by a United States marshal, deputy United States marshal, or other person or officer designated explicitly by the Court for that effect. This direction will only be done in circumstances where service is to be effected on behalf of the United States or an officer or agency of the same or when the Court issues an order asserting that District of Columbia Process Service by a United States marshal or deputy is required so that District of Columbia Process Service is effected correctly in that particular action. 

District of Columbia Process Service is also done via substitute service at home.  This is not something that the plaintiff can do on their own since they are thus barred by law. If the petitioner does not have someone to hand the documents over to, a process server that is professionally engaged will be able to serve the documents. Substitute Service can also be done at the individual’s place of work. An adult not involved in the case will be asked to go to the other parent’s place of employment and physically hand the documents that are required to the individual.   

While it is not as common, the District of Columbia Process Service can also be done via Certified and First-Class Mail. For this, it would be necessary for the petitioner to mail the Summons and Complaint by certified mail, with the return receipt requested. This is something that the individual can accomplish on their own by going to the post office. After the letter is delivered, the post office will mail the individual a return receipt. Consequently, District of Columbia Process Service may be effected by mailing a copy of the summons, complaint, and initial order by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be served, together with two copies of a Notice and Acknowledgment conforming substantially to Form 1-A and a return envelope, postage prepaid, addressed to the sender.

Unless good cause is shown for not doing so, the Court will order the payment by the party served of the costs incurred in securing an alternative method of District of Columbia Process Service if the person served does not complete and return, within twenty days after mailing, the Notice and Acknowledgment of receipt of the summons.


If the individual cannot find the other party, it is possible to a Motion to Serve by Publication or Posting. To initiate, the plaintiff must attempt to locate the opposing side. In the motion, it is required to make a list of all the things that have been done to locate the other party. During the court hearing or by letter, the judge will inform the plaintiff of their decision concerning the motion. If the court rules that the plaintiff has not put forth enough effort, then they have the option of making more and then filing another request if they are unable to locate the missing party.

Announcing in a newspaper is meant by process service by “publication.” If the court approves the request, the plaintiff must prepare to publish the notice. For three weeks, the notification must be published weekly in two publications.  The newspapers will send proof of publication to the court.

Service by Posting is when a notice is put up in the courtroom. If paying for a notice’s publication is out of the question for the plaintiff,  they may seek to have it posted instead. In the motion, it is necessary to note any circumstances wherein the plaintiff has previously been given a fee waiver. The court will determine whether to allow notice to be posted instead of published if the plaintiff does not provide information about their financial condition in the petition. The court clerk’s office will post the notice for the twenty-one days if the request to post is approved. If service is done by posting, the clerk’s office will take care of matters insofar as the plaintiff does not have to file an affidavit. 


One must serve the opposite party with copies of any further documents they submit in a lawsuit, such as replies or motions. Ordinarily, these documents may be sent by first-class mail. Could you send the documents to the opposite party’s lawyer if they have one? The documents should be sent directly to the opposite party if they need an attorney. It is also possible to hand-deliver the paperwork to the lawyer or the opposing party.

It is required that the Clerk sign the summons, carry the Court’s seal, identify both the Court and the parties, be addressed to the defendant, as well as mention the plaintiff’s attorney’s name and address if the plaintiff is not represented. If the defendant does not show up and defend themselves within that time frame, there will be a default judgment against them for the remedy sought in the complaint.


District of Columbia Process Service upon individuals in a foreign country is possible in the District of Colombia unless the individual is an infant or an incompetent person. This District of Columbia Process Service is done upon an individual from whom an acknowledgment has not been obtained and filed. This can be done by international agreements like the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-judicial Documents. 

However, it is not necessary for this international agreement insofar as if are no internationally agreed means of service or the applicable international agreement allows other means of service, provided that District of Columbia Process Service is reasonably calculated to give notice: [A.] in the manner prescribed by the law of the foreign country for service in that country in action in any of its courts of general jurisdiction; or [B.] as directed by the foreign authority in response to a letter rogatory or letter of request; or [C.] unless prohibited by the law of the foreign country, by delivery to the individual personally of a copy of the summons, complaint, and initial order; or delivery by mail requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and dispatched by the clerk of the court to the party to be served. 


The summons, complaint, and first order must be served by presenting them to the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Corporation Counsel. A written notice filed with the Court’s Clerk by the Mayor or Corporation Counsel designates an employee to receive service of process. A copy of the summons, complaint, and first-order must also be given or mailed to the officer or agency in any action challenging the legality of an order of the District of Columbia not made a party. The summons, complaint and first order shall be delivered to the Mayor (or designee), the Corporation Counsel (or designee), and such official or agency for the District of Columbia Process Service.

The District of Columbia may be served by providing a copy of the summons, complaint, and first order to the Mayor (or designee) of the District of Columbia and the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia. By virtue of submitting a written notice with the Court’s Clerk, the Mayor, and Corporation Counsel can individually nominate one employee to receive service of process. A duplicate of the summons, complaint, and first-order must therefore be given or mailed to almost any officer or agency of the District of Columbia that is not a party to the action challenging the legality of an order. The summons, complaint, and first-order can then be served on a District of Columbia officer or agency by providing a copy to the Mayor (or designee), the Corporation Counsel (or designee), and such officer or agency.

A summons may be modified with the permission of the Court, complying with the rules of the District of Columbia Process Service. In the event that District of Columbia Process Service is made pursuant to statute or rule of court that [A.] provides for service upon a party not residing in the District of Columbia, or [B.] provides for service upon or notice to the party to appear and respond to the attachment or garnishment or similar seizure of the property of the party located in District of Columbia, District of Columbia Process Service should be completed based on this statute.

When the plaintiff files court papers other than the initial complaint, they must also file a certificate of service that states who they served, the manner of, at what address, and on what date. Serving court papers filed after a final order has been entered would then require filing the motion or pleading after more than sixty days of a final order or judgment; the papers must be served the same way the plaintiff would serve a summons and complaint.


For a filing to be done adequately with the clerk, it is necessary to understand that every paper permitted to be filed in this court must be filed with the Clerk. This means that filing should be done according to the Clerk’s methodology and timelines. For example, filing may be accomplished by mail addressed to the Clerk but will only be considered timely if the Clerk receives the papers within the time fixed for filing. Additionally, a paper filed by an inmate confined in an institution would be considered timely if deposited in the institution’s internal mailing system on or before the last day for filing. If an institution has a system designed for legal mail, the inmate must use that system to receive the benefit of this rule. 

District of Columbia Process Service upon the clerk is usually done by [A.] personal service, which would also provide for delivery to a responsible person at the office of counsel; [B.] by mail; [C.] by the third-party commercial carrier for delivery within three calendar days; or [D.] by electronic means, if the party being served consents in writing. Although these forms of District of Columbia Process Service are typically undertaken, it should be remembered that other factors like the immediate nature of relief or distance should be considered. Also, for all requests for expedited and emergency consideration, the District of Columbia Process Service should be done specifically on all counsel as well as any party not represented by counsel. Furthermore, District of Columbia Process Service by mail or by the commercial carrier is complete on mailing or delivery to the carrier. In contrast, a similar service by electronic means would be considered complete on transmission unless the party-making District of Columbia Process Service is notified that the paper was not received by the party served.

It is necessary for any paper presented to fail to maintain a record of service, which often takes the form of [A.] an acknowledgment of service by the person served; or [B]. Proof of service consists of a statement by the person who conducted District of Columbia Process Service. This proof of service usually would include. The date and manner of service; the names of the persons served; and the mail or electronic address addresses of the places of delivery, as appropriate for the service. This proof of service must be included with the papers filed. If the Clerk does not accept any paper for filing, the Clerk must promptly notify the persons named in the certificate of service.


There is often a timeline for serving and filing briefs adequately.  Usually, the plaintiff must serve the opposite party with copies of any further documents they submit in a lawsuit, such as replies or motions as per the District of Columbia Process Service. Ordinarily, these documents may be sent by first-class mail. Send the documents to the opposite party’s lawyer if they have one. The documents should be sent directly to the opposite party if they don’t have an attorney. It also is possible to hand-deliver the paperwork to the lawyer or the opposing party.

Individual appellants may join to submit a single brief in consolidated appeals. It seems that a reply brief must be filed within the time allowed if individual appellants or appellees submit separate briefs, the period running following delivery of the last brief to which a response is made.

It is also required to ensure that the number of copies for the District of Columbia Process Service is adequate if a consolidated brief is submitted. Original and three copies of each brief must be filed with the Clerk. However, if the case is to be heard en banc, then the original and nine copies of each brief must be filed. A copy of each brief must be served on counsel for each separately represented party and on each unrepresented party. By order in a particular case, the court may require the filing or District of Columbia Process Service of a different number of copies.

There are repercussions to a Failure to File. An appellee may seek to dismiss an appeal if an appellant fails to submit a brief within the period specified in this rule or within the period thus extended. Unless the court gives permission, a party that fails to submit a brief will not be heard during an oral argument.

HOW TO SERVE A SUBPOENA IN the district of Columbia

Subpoenas must be issued under the court’s seal, stating the court’s name and the action’s name, and the clerk must demand each individual to present and testify at the time and location stated. An unsigned and sealed blank subpoena will be sent to the party seeking it, and the party must fill it up before serving.

It is also possible for a subpoena to demand that a specific person produce a specific set of documents or other tangible items. However, a motion to quash or modify this subpoena must be made promptly, and in any event before the time specified for compliance, or, if it is deemed unreasonable and oppressive, it may be conditioned upon the advancement of a reasonable explanation by whoever is requesting it.

Generally, a subpoena may be served by anybody over eighteen, as long as they are not a party to the case. The individual identified in the subpoena will be given a copy of the subpoena and the fees and mileage authorized by law for one day’s attendance, which will be delivered to that person. Subpoenas issued on behalf of the State, an official, or an agency are exempt from the requirement that costs and travel be paid upfront.

In order for the clerk of the district court to issue subpoenas to the individuals mentioned or described therein, a party’s request is sufficient authorization. Subpoenaed documents may be inspected or copied only if the person to whom the subpoena is addressed files a written objection within ten days of serving the subpoena or the period stated in the subpoena for compliance if such time is less than ten days after District of Columbia Process Service. Subpoenaed papers may only be seen and copied under the court order from whence the subpoena was issued if an objection is raised.

The copy must [A.] Include a specific citation since the secretary of state may only accept such service if the proper citation is included; [B.] be accompanied by a fee of ten dollars. The secretary of state will keep a copy of the legal process received in their office for at least one year after receipt and will make those records available for public inspection during regular business hours.

how to domesticate an OUT-OF-STATE SUBPOENA in the district of columbia

Issuing an out-of-state subpoena pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Deposition and Discovery Act (UIDDA)-District of Columbia, the clerk of the court in the county where discovery is to be performed in this state must be presented with a foreign subpoena before it may be requested that a subpoena be issued under this section. Subpoenas issued under this law do not obligate a person to appear in court in the District of Columbia.

Second, the clerk of a court in this state must swiftly issue a summons to the person to whom the international subpoena is sent, in line with that court’s process.

A subpoena issued for a foreign defendant must include: [A.]  the terminology appropriate for the subpoena from abroad; and [B.]  part of the subpoena, it must include or be accompanied by the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all counsel of record and of any party that counsel does not represent.


Documents can be faxed at (800) 296-0115, emailed to, mailed, or dropped off at any of our locations. We do require pre-payment and accept all major credit and debit cards. Once payment is processed, your sales receipt is immediately emailed for your records.

Drop-offs must call and make an appointment first to be added to building security to permit access to our office. Documents for service must be in a sealed envelope with payment in the form of a money order or attorney check (WE DO NOT ACCEPT CASH) payable to UNDISPUTED LEGAL INC.; Our receptionist will receive all documents.  Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!


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1. (USMS), U.S. Marshals Service. “U.S. Marshals Service.” U.S. Marshals Home Page, 

2. Individuals can get court pleadings at, or the D.C. Superior Court Family Court Central Intake Center (500 Indiana Avenue NW, Room JM-540), open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

3. ” Rule 4 – Summons, Miss. R. Civ. P. 4

4. (Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 552, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 142(2).)

5. The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, more commonly called the Hague Service Convention, is a multilateral treaty that was adopted in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 15 November 1965 by member states of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

6. Unless a rule requires service by the Clerk, a party must, at or before filing a paper, serve a copy on the other parties to the appeal or review. Service on a party represented by counsel must be made on the party’s counsel.

7. Timely filing may be shown by a declaration in compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 1746 or by a notarized statement, either of which must set forth the date of deposit and state that first-class postage has been prepaid.

8. Rule 35. En Banc Determination

(a) When Hearing or Rehearing En Banc May Be Ordered. A majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified may order that an appeal or other proceeding be heard or reheard by the court of appeals en banc. An en banc hearing or rehearing is not favored and ordinarily will not be ordered unless:

(1) en banc consideration is necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court’s decisions; or

(2) the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.


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