Writ Of Summons

Writ Of Summons
Writ Of Summons
Quick Summary of Writ Of Summons

A writ of summons is an official paper that initiates a legal proceeding. It notifies the defendant that they must appear in court and address the allegations made against them. Additionally, it can be employed to summon individuals as witnesses or jurors in a court case. Various types of summons exist, including a brief summons for a debtor who resides outside the jurisdiction or a John Doe summons for an unidentified individual.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Summons?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Summons

A writ of summons is a legal document that begins a lawsuit by informing the defendant that they are being sued and must appear in court to address the accusations. In English law, it is the primary method of initiating legal action. Various types of summons include:

  • Alias summons: A second summons issued when the original summons fails for some reason.
  • John Doe summons: A summons to an individual whose name is unknown at the time of service.
  • Judgement summons: A process used by a judgement creditor to initiate action against a judgement debtor in order to enforce the judgement.
  • Short summons: A summons with a shorter response time than an ordinary summons, typically served on a fraudulent or nonresident debtor.
  • Third-party record-custodian summons: A summons from the Internal Revenue Service to a third party, requesting information on an unnamed, unknown taxpayer with potential tax liability.

These examples demonstrate the various situations in which a writ of summons may be utilised in legal proceedings.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Summons

A Writ of Summons is a crucial legal document in the British judicial system, serving as the initial step in civil litigation. It informs the defendant that they are being sued and outlines the plaintiff’s claims. This document sets the legal process in motion and ensures that the defendant is aware of the proceedings against them, thus upholding the principles of natural justice.

Historical Context

The concept of a writ dates back to medieval England, where it was a formal written order issued by a monarch or other authority. The Writ of Summons, in particular, has its roots in the common law system, evolving over centuries to become a fundamental part of civil procedure. Historically, writs were the primary means by which legal actions were initiated, and they have retained their importance despite the evolution of modern legal practices.

Purpose and Function

The primary purpose of a Writ of Summons is to notify the defendant of the legal action being taken against them and to compel their appearance in court. This ensures that the defendant has an opportunity to respond to the plaintiff’s claims, thereby guaranteeing a fair trial. The writ also outlines the nature of the claims and the relief sought by the plaintiff, providing the defendant with sufficient information to prepare their defence.

Issuance of a Writ of Summons

Initiating a Civil Claim

In England and Wales, the process of issuing a Writ of Summons begins with the filing of a claim form at the court. This form must include details of the parties involved, the nature of the claim, and the relief sought. Once the claim form is filed, the court issues the Writ of Summons, which is then served on the defendant.

Service of the Writ

Service of the Writ of Summons is a critical step in the legal process. It ensures that the defendant is formally notified of the proceedings. The methods of service can vary, including personal service, service by post, and service by electronic means. The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) govern the specifics of service to ensure it is carried out effectively and fairly.

Contents of a Writ of Summons

A Writ of Summons typically includes the following elements:

  1. Title of the Action: Identifying the court in which the action is brought and the names of the parties.
  2. Details of the Claim: Outline the plaintiff’s allegations and the basis of the claim.
  3. Relief Sought: Specifying the remedies or compensation the plaintiff is seeking.
  4. Response Time: Indicating the time frame within which the defendant must respond.
  5. Notice of Consequences: Warning the defendant of the potential consequences of failing to respond, such as a default judgment.

Legal Requirements and Formalities

Compliance with Civil Procedure Rules

The issuance and service of a Writ of Summons must comply with the Civil Procedure Rules. These rules ensure that the process is fair and transparent, protecting the rights of both parties. Non-compliance with these rules can result in the writ being set aside or the case being dismissed.

Jurisdiction and Venue

The Writ of Summons must be issued by a court with appropriate jurisdiction over the case. Jurisdiction is determined by factors such as the nature of the claim and the location of the parties. Venue refers to the specific court where the case will be heard, and it is typically chosen based on convenience and relevance to the parties involved.

Defendant’s Response

Upon receiving a Writ of Summons, the defendant has several options for response:

  1. Acknowledge Service: Indicating receipt of the writ and the intention to contest the claim.
  2. File a Defence: Submitting a formal written response to the plaintiff’s allegations.
  3. Counterclaim: Asserting a claim against the plaintiff in response to the original claim.
  4. Apply to Set Aside the Writ: Challenging the validity of the writ on procedural or substantive grounds.

Failure to respond within the specified time frame can result in a default judgment being entered against the defendant.

Default Judgment

A default judgment occurs when the defendant fails to respond to the Writ of Summons within the specified time frame. This allows the plaintiff to obtain a judgment in their favour without a trial. Default judgments are typically granted when the defendant has not acknowledged service, filed a defence, or applied to set aside the writ.

Setting Aside a Writ of Summons

The defendant can apply to set aside a Writ of Summons on various grounds, including:

  1. Lack of Jurisdiction: Arguing that the court does not have the authority to hear the case.
  2. Improper Service: Claiming that the writ was not served in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules.
  3. Abuse of Process: Alleging that the plaintiff is using the legal process improperly or maliciously.
  4. Lack of Merit: Asserting that the claim lacks a legal basis or is frivolous.

The court will consider these arguments and decide whether to set aside the writ or allow the case to proceed.

Amending a Writ of Summons

In some cases, it may be necessary to amend a Writ of Summons to correct errors or include additional information. The Civil Procedure Rules provide guidelines for amending a writ, typically requiring the court’s permission. Amendments must be made promptly and should not prejudice the defendant’s ability to respond.

International Considerations

In an increasingly globalised world, cross-border litigation is becoming more common. The Writ of Summons must comply with international legal principles when involving parties in different jurisdictions. The Hague Service Convention and other international agreements govern the service of judicial documents abroad, ensuring that defendants in foreign jurisdictions are properly notified of legal proceedings.

Practical Considerations for Practitioners

Drafting a Writ of Summons

Legal practitioners must carefully draft a Writ of Summons to ensure it complies with procedural requirements and accurately reflects the plaintiff’s claims. This involves thorough fact-finding and legal analysis to present a compelling case. Attention to detail is crucial, as errors in the writ can result in delays or dismissal of the case.

Advising Clients

Solicitors must provide clear and comprehensive advice to clients regarding the implications of receiving or issuing a Writ of Summons. This includes explaining the legal process, potential outcomes, and strategies for responding. Effective communication and timely action are essential to protect the client’s interests.

Managing Deadlines

The issuance and response to a Writ of Summons involve strict deadlines. Legal practitioners must manage these timelines effectively to ensure compliance with procedural rules. Missing deadlines can have serious consequences, including default judgments or dismissal of the case.

Recent Developments and Reforms

The legal landscape is constantly evolving, and recent reforms have impacted the process of issuing and responding to a Writ of Summons. The introduction of electronic filing and service has streamlined the process, making it more efficient. Additionally, ongoing efforts to simplify the Civil Procedure Rules aim to make the legal process more accessible and less burdensome for parties involved.


The Writ of Summons is a fundamental component of the civil litigation process in the British judicial system. It serves to notify the defendant of legal action, ensuring they have an opportunity to respond and participate in the proceedings. Compliance with procedural rules, careful drafting, and effective legal advice are crucial to the successful issuance and response to a writ. As legal practices continue to evolve, the principles underlying the Writ of Summons remain essential to upholding justice and fairness in civil litigation.

Writ Of Summons FAQ'S

A Writ of Summons is a legal document issued by a court that initiates a lawsuit. It informs the defendant that they are being sued and provides details about the nature of the claim.

To obtain a Writ of Summons, you need to file a complaint or a petition with the appropriate court. The court will then issue the Writ of Summons, which you can serve on the defendant.

A Writ of Summons should include the names of the parties involved, the court where the lawsuit is filed, the nature of the claim, and the relief sought. It should also specify the deadline for the defendant to respond.

The purpose of a Writ of Summons is to officially notify the defendant that they are being sued and to provide them with an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them.

After a Writ of Summons is served on the defendant, they have a specific period, usually 20-30 days, to respond. They can either file a defence or counterclaim, or choose not to respond, resulting in a default judgment.

Yes, a Writ of Summons can be challenged or dismissed if there are valid legal grounds. For example, if the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter or if the Writ of Summons was not properly served on the defendant.

Ignoring a Writ of Summons can result in a default judgment being entered against the defendant. This means that the court will rule in favor of the plaintiff without the defendant having an opportunity to present their defence.

Yes, a Writ of Summons can be withdrawn if both parties agree to settle the dispute outside of court or if the plaintiff decides to discontinue the lawsuit. However, this typically requires the court’s approval.

Yes, a Writ of Summons can be amended if there are errors or omissions in the original document. However, the court’s permission may be required, and the defendant should be properly notified of any amendments.

A Writ of Summons initiates a lawsuit and notifies the defendant of the legal action, while a Writ of Subpoena is a court order that compels a person to appear in court or produce documents as evidence in a case.

Related Phrases
No related content found.

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:https://dlssolicitors.com/define/writ-of-summons/
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):Writ Of Summons. dlssolicitors.com. DLS Solicitors. June 23 2024 https://dlssolicitors.com/define/writ-of-summons/.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):Writ Of Summons. dlssolicitors.com. DLS Solicitors. https://dlssolicitors.com/define/writ-of-summons/ (accessed: June 23 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):Writ Of Summons. dlssolicitors.com. Retrieved June 23 2024, from dlssolicitors.com website: https://dlssolicitors.com/define/writ-of-summons/
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts