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A civil lawsuit against federal government officials is served by certified mail. This is in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 (i):

(i) Serving the United States and Its Agencies, Corporations, Officers, or Employees.

(2) Agency; Corporation; Officer or Employee Sued in an Official Capacity. To serve a United States agency or corporation, or a United States officer or employee sued only in an official capacity, a party must serve the United States and also send a copy of the summons and of the complaint by registered or certified mail to the agency, corporation, officer, or employee.

The above law requires to mail the defendant a copy of the summons.

However the following Western District of VA Pro Se handbook says (page 16):

Generally, if you are suing the United States Government, you must serve an original SUMMONS and a copy of the COMPLAINT on three separate parties: (1) the head of the federal agency you are suing; (2) the United States Attorney for the district; and (3) the United States Attorney General in Washington, D.C.

Question: So which one is it? Should the defendant be served with a copy or the original summons?

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The court should give you two originals: one to be served, the other to be returned with proof of service attached.

If the court gives you only one original then just ask them whether they need the original or copy to be returned with proof of service, from which you will deduct what to serve.

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  • I got only one original summons (per defandant) from the court, which according to their handbook, is the one I should serve. As for proof of service, I do not think the court expects to a get back a summons with each proof of service. If the proof of service form is required to be filed with the court (I am not sure), then that form shows on whom it was served. But the return receipt also shows that.
    – rapt
    Jul 20 at 3:20

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