How to Tell if a Court Summons Is Legitimate

The law requires a summons to be served with every lawsuit.
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A summons is a court document that is served with a lawsuit. A summons must contain specific language and be prepared on an official court form to be valid. A summons must be properly completed and signed by a plaintiff or her lawyer. A summons is entered by a court clerk upon payment of a fee. The original copy of the summons is recorded at the courthouse. Verifying the legitimacy of a summons can be done easily.

The law requires a summons contain specific information.

Locate language that confirms there are either no other pending actions between the parties or that identifies existing actions. Search for language that states accommodations for disabled persons and language translators are available. Locate the deadline for answering the complaint and the penalties for not responding. Look for a box entitled "venue" which notes the city, county and state in which the parties reside and where the dispute occurred.

A summons must be signed by the court and kept on file at the courthouse.

Look for a dated signature by a court clerk. Locate a docket number and summons expiration date near the clerk's signature. Confirm the document has been stamped or embossed with a court seal and that the court's contact information is present. Confirm that an attorney has signed and dated the summons. Confirm the plaintiff has signed and dated the summons if he is representing himself.

Read More: How to Request a Court-Issued Summons

A summons can be verified by contacting a court clerk.

Call or visit the court. Give the court clerk the name of the parties and the docket number on the summons. Ask the clerk if the docket number is on file and if it matches the names appearing on the summons. Have the clerk confirm the date the summons was issued and the deadline for answering. Verify the original court summons mirrors the copy served to ensure it was not altered after filing.

Contact a lawyer to protect all rights affected by a summons and complaint.

Seek legal counsel. An attorney can ensure a summons is legitimate and can protect your rights relating to litigation.


  • Courts also send out jury summonses that command citizens to appear for jury duty. A jury summons should not be ignored. A jury summons provides explicit directions to appear in court on a certain date and time and includes a contact number to answer a recipient's questions.

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