Rules 4(a) and (b) – Clerk of Court must Sign & Seal the Summons

     This page contains an unabridged, summarized version of these sections of Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, followed by a transcript of these sections of the rule.

Translation of Rules (a) through (b):

File a Summons with The Federal Clerk of Court: On or after filing the Complaint, the Plaintiff may present a completed Summons form to the Clerk for each Defendant to be served.  If the Summons are properly filled out, the Clerk must sign, seal, & then issue a copy of each signed & sealed Summons (or just one Summons if there is only one Defendant) back to the Plaintiff for use in serving the Defendant(s).  The court may permit a Summons to be amended, if needed.

Summons in a Civil Action– Form AO 440

(click here for the same form on

Transcript of Rule 4(a) and (b):

Note: Sections of the rule which read (included in form) can be disregarded as those sections describe text already included in the official Summons Form AO440.  Sections of the rule which explain directions are enlarged & colored purple.  

(a) Contents; Amendments.

(1) Contents. A summons must:

(A) name the court and the parties; (included in form)

(B) be directed to the defendant; (included in form)

(C) state the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney or– if unrepresented– of the plaintiff; (included in form)

(D) state the time within which the defendant must appear and defend; (included in form)

(E) notify the defendant that a failure to appear and defend will result in a default judgment against the defendant for the relief demanded in the complaint; (included in form)

(F) be signed by the clerk; and 

(G) bear the court’s seal. (see “(b) Issuance” for directions)

(2) Amendments. The court may permit a Summons to be amended.

(b) Issuance. On or after filing the Complaint, the Plaintiff may present a Summons to the clerk for signature & seal.  If the Summons is properly completed, the clerk must sign, seal, & issue it to the Plaintiff for service on the defendant.  A Summonsor a copy of a summons that is addressed to multiple Defendants— must be issued for each Defendant to be served.