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foolish

Serving Summons & Complaint

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My question is governed by federal law. But Complaint was filed in California.

How many complaints does a party must serve on a defendant’s where there are several defendants, but all are represented by one lawyer.

Does the party serving the summons make a copy of the complaint for each defendant? Or is one enough?

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foolish said...

My question is governed by federal law. But Complaint was filed in California.

You are saying that the case is filed in federal district court rather than a state court, correct? If it is in federal district court, you must serve each defendant separately, not withstanding that you have knowledge that they all have the same lawyer. That is clear from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically Rule 4(B):

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.

(underlining added).

If the matter is in state court, then the CA rules would apply, not the federal rules. I've not read the CA rules on this, but it's extremely likely that it, too, requires separate service on each defendant.

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Actually, the language in rule 4(B) of FRCP is clear concerning the summons on multipule defendants.

What's not clear is whether I serve for example 7 copies of the complaint on the defendants when they are represented by one lawyer. FRCP rule 4(i)

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Unless the attorney notifies you that he will accept service, you have to personally serve a defendant. If there is more than one, you have to serve each of them individually. If the attorney notifies you that he/she will accept service for all defendants, you must serve him/her for each individual defendant. That means a separate copy of the summons and complaint for each defendant.

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So does this means that I may personally contact defendants attorney for the specific purpose of asking if s/he may accept one complaint for all defendants and appropriate number of summons on each defendant. Since s/he is assigned to represent the United States and it agencies under rule 4(i) of FRCP.

The reason I ask is it seems to be "superfluous and extremly wasteful" to serve a complete and every defrendant since only one attorney is representing all defendants.

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You can ask if he will accept service on behalf of all defendants and execute and return the acknowledgment of receipt for each but you still have to serve him with a summons and complaint for each individual defendant and provide the acknowledgment for each as well.

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foolish said...

Since s/he is assigned to represent the United States and it agencies under rule 4(i) of FRCP.

Hold up there. If you are suing the United States, or an officer or employee of the United States in his/her official capacity or individually or acts carried out as part of his/her duties for the government, you must follow the rules exactly in Rule 4(i) or the U.S. will move to dismiss for improper service. If you are, for example, suing both the United States and an officer of the United States in his official capacity in the same action, you must serve both the United States and that officer as provided in the rule. You cannot simply serve one summons and complaint on the U.S. for both even if DOJ is going to represent them both. Separate service is required. These rules are written in mandatory terms and a DOJ employee cannot alter them to make service more convenient for you. There is a reason for doing it this way, and if you depart from what the rule requires, you do so at your own peril. You cannot assume that whatever government attorney you've been dealing with thus far is the one that would handle the lawsuit you file. The DOJ may well assign it someone else. And if the attorney you've dealt with so far is an attorney for an agency and not a Justice Department attorney, he or she will not be the attorney handling the lawsuit as only DOJ attorneys represent the U.S. in federal district court.

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Putting aside the Rule 4(i) issue (which, by the way tells me that your case must be in federal court), the answer to your basic question is that you must serve one copy of the summons and one copy of the complaint on each defendant. If there are seven defendants, then you must prepare and serve seven separate copies of the summons and complaint.

That the defendants are all represented by the same lawyer is completely irrelevant unless the lawyer is accepting service on behalf of the defendants (in which case, you likely only need to send the lawyer a single copy of the summons and complaint unless he's an anal retentive jerkwad).

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My summons and Complaint has been served to individual defendant, but I strongly believe that I might have named the wrong defendants, although the defendants that I have named oversee the functions of the office I am complaining about, their place of office and residence is not in California.

My question is would a federal California district court have jurisdiction over a federal government official that has a place of residence in another state?

For example: Would the California district court have jurisdiction over an official that works and resides in Washington and where can I find the statute that I could research. The closest I got was 28 U.S.C § 1391.

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