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A civil lawsuit is filed against several federal government officials. The officials are specified in the complaint by their names as defendants, however they are sued in their official capacity.

What happens with the lawsuit if shortly after the summonses are mailed to each defendant, one of the defendants is replaced?

Does the plaintiff need to mail the summons again to the new official?

Does the replacing of the official reset the 60-day period the defendants have to file an answer?

And what happens if the soon-to-be-replaced official was served with his summons, but shortly after that (but before the defendant replied, and before the expiration of the 60-day period the defendant has to file and answer), the defendant is replaced with the new official?

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The named official capacity defendant is substituted as a matter of course, by unopposed motion or with the stipulation of the Justice Department. This is typically done in dozens or even hundred or thousands of cases, when there is a change in the official holding the post. This happens frequently, so the Department of Justice has forms on their computer that allow it to be done en mass by paralegals with only the slightest intervention from DOJ lawyers. They have the process down to a science.

It has no practical impact on the course of the litigation. It does not require a new summons to be served and does not reset any deadlines. If the change happens before the summons is served, the summons should be amended by the Plaintiff through the same sort of process.

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  • "If the change happens before the summons is served, the summons should be amended by the Plaintiff through the same sort of process." How exactly can the summons be amended by the plaintiff in that case other than by serving a new summons?
    – rapt
    Jul 19 at 15:53

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