A document issued by the court at the time a lawsuit is filed, stating the name of both plaintiff and defendant, the title and file number of the case, the court and its address, the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, and instructions as to the need to file a response to the complaint within a certain time (such as 30 days after service), usually with a form on the back on which information of service of summons and complaint is to be filled out and signed by the process server. a copy of the summons must be served on each defendant at the same time as the complaint to start the time running for the defendant to answer. certain writs and orders to show cause are served instead of a summons since they contain the same information along with special orders of the court. after service to the defendants, the original summons, along with the “return of service” proving the summons and complaint were served, is filed with the court to show that each defendant was served. a summons differs from a subpena, which is an order to a witness to appear.