HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

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Undisputed Legal | District of Columbia Process Service

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 in ensuring that copies are given to the parties of the case in a manner that adequately completes the requirements of the District of Columbia Process Service.  

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.

WHAT TO DO WHEN SERVING A SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT

At the outset of the summons is 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 must be provided to the court if it is served by posting a copy of the District of Columbia Process Service on the premises. Clearly visible timestamps on the picture are required to show the day and time the summons was posted.

METHODS OF SERVING SUMMONS

At the plaintiff’s specific 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 specifically designated 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 properly effected 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 who is professionally engaged to do so will be able to serve the documents. Substitute Service can also be done at the individual’s place of work. An adult who is not involved in the case will be asked to go to the other parent’s place of employment and hand the documents that are required physically to the individual.   

While it is not as common, the District of Columbia Process Service can also be done via Certified Mail 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 send the individual a return receipt via mail. 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.

SERVICE IF THE DEFENDANT CANNOT BE LOCATED

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 make an 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.

Making an announcement in a newspaper is what is meant by process service by “publication”. If the court approves the request, the plaintiff must make preparations for publication of the notice. For a period of three weeks, the notification must be published once weekly in two publications.  The newspapers will send proof of publication to the court.

Service by Posting is when 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. It is indeed required to note in the motion 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 take care of posting the notice for the necessary twenty-one days if the request to post is approved. If service is done by posting, then the clerk’s office will take care of matters insofar as the plaintiff does not even actually have to file an affidavit. 

SERVING COURT PAPERS FILED AFTER THE INITIAL COMPLAINT

One must serve the opposite party with copies of any further documents they submit in a lawsuit, such as replies or motions, generally. 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 is also possible to hand-deliver the paperwork to the lawyer or the opposing party.

It is required that the summons be signed by the Clerk, 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.

CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE SERVICE OF PROCESS MAY BE DONE DIFFERENTLY

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, which can be done by international agreements like the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-judicial Documents. 

However, it is not absolutely 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. 

SERVICE OF PROCESS ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ITSELF

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 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 rules of 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 District of Columbia, or [B.] provides for service upon or notice to 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 the filing of 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.

HOW TO FILE PROCESS WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT

For a filing to be done adequately with the clerk, it is necessary to understand that every single paper that is permitted to be filed in this court must be filed with the Clerk. This means that filing should be accomplished in accordance with the methodology and the timelines of the Clerk. For example, filing may be accomplished by mail addressed to the Clerk, but will not be considered to be timely if the Clerk does not actually receive the papers within the time fixed for filing. Additionally, a paper filed by an inmate confined in an institution would be considered to be 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. Additionally, for all requests of expedited and emergency consideration, 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 whereas similar service by electronic means would be considered to be 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 for failing 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 consisting 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 manner of service. This proof of service must be included with the papers that have been filed. If any paper is not accepted by the Clerk for filing, the Clerk must promptly notify the persons named in the certificate of service.

HOW TO SERVE AND FILE BRIEFS

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 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. There must be a reply brief 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 District of Columbia Process Service is adequate if there is a consolidated brief that is submitted. An original and three copies of each brief must be filed with the Clerk. However, if the case is to be heard en banc, then an 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, as well as 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 time period specified in this rule, or within the time period thus extended. Unless the court gives permission, a party that fails to submit a brief will not be heard during oral argument.

For more information on serving legal papers, contact Undisputed Legal our District of Columbia Process Service department at (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Sources

1. (USMS), U.S. Marshals Service. “U.S. Marshals Service.” U.S. Marshals Home Page, https://www.usmarshals.gov/process/summons-complaint.htm. 

2. Individuals can get court pleadings at www.dcbar.org/pleadings, or at 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 which 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 the time of 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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