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Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure

Rule 4. Process

Rule 4. Process

Summons: Issuance.

Upon commencing the action the plaintiff or his attorney shall deliver a copy of the complaint and a summons for service to the sheriff, deputy sheriff, or special sheriff; any other person duly authorized by law; a person specifically appointed to serve them; or as otherwise provided in subdivision (c) of this rule. Upon request of the plaintiff separate or additional summons shall issue against any defendant. The summons may be procured in blank from the clerk, and shall be filled in by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney in accordance with Rule 4 (b).

Same: Form.

The summons shall bear the signature or facsimile signature of the clerk; be under the seal of the court; be in the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; bear teste of the first justice of the court to which it shall be returnable who is not a party; contain the name of the court and the names of the parties; be directed to the defendant; state the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, if any, otherwise the plaintiff’s address, and the time within which these rules require the defendant to appear and defend; and shall notify him that in case of his failure to do so judgment by default may be rendered against him for the relief demanded in the complaint.

By Whom Served.

Except as otherwise permitted by paragraph (h) of this rule, service of all process shall be made by a sheriff, by his deputy, or by a special sheriff; by any other person duly authorized by law; by some person specially appointed by the court for that purpose; or in the case of service of process outside the Commonwealth, by an individual permitted to make service of process under the law of this Commonwealth or under the law of the place in which the service is to be made, or who is designated by a court of this Commonwealth. A subpoena may be served as provided in Rule 45. Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph (c), wherever in these rules service is permitted to be made by certified or registered mail, the mailing may be accomplished by the party or his attorney.

Summons: Personal Service Within the Commonwealth.

The summons and a copy of the complaint shall be served together. The plaintiff shall furnish the person making service with such copies as are necessary. Service shall be made as follows:

Upon an individual by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to him personally; or by leaving copies thereof at his last and usual place of abode; or by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an agent authorized by appointment or by statute to receive service of process, provided that any further notice required by such statute be given. If the person authorized to serve process makes return that after diligent search he can find neither the defendant, nor defendant’s last and usual abode, nor any agent upon whom service may be made in compliance with this subsection, the court may on application of the plaintiff issue an order of notice in the manner and form prescribed by law.

Upon a domestic corporation (public or private), a foreign corporation subject to suit within the Commonwealth, or an unincorporated association subject to suit within the Commonwealth under a common name: by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, to a managing or general agent, or to the person in charge of the business at the principal place of business thereof within the Commonwealth, if any; or by delivering such copies to any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process, provided that any further notice required by law be given. If the person authorized to serve process makes return that after diligent search he can find no person upon whom service can be made, the court may on application of the plaintiff issue an order of notice in the manner and form prescribed by law.

* Upon the Commonwealth or any agency thereof by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the Boston office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, and, in the case of any agency, to its office or to its chairman or one of its members or its secretary or clerk. Service hereunder may be effected by mailing such copies to the Attorney General and to the agency by certified or registered mail.

* Upon a county, city, town or other political subdivision of the Commonwealth subject to suit, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the treasurer or the clerk thereof; or by leaving such copies at the office of the treasurer or the clerk thereof with the person then in charge thereof; or by mailing such copies to the treasurer or the clerk thereof by registered or certified mail.

* Upon an authority, board, committee, or similar entity, subject to suit under a common name, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the chairman or other chief executive officer; or by leaving such copies at the office of the said entity with the person then in charge thereof; or by mailing such copies to such officer by registered or certified mail.

* In any action in which the validity of an order of an officer or agency of the Commonwealth is in any way brought into question, the party questioning the validity shall forthwith forward to the Attorney General of the Commonwealth by hand or by registered or certified mail a brief statement indicating the order questioned.

Same: Personal Service Outside the Commonwealth.

When any statute or law of the Commonwealth authorizes service of process outside the Commonwealth, the service shall be made by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint: (1) in any appropriate manner prescribed in subdivision (d) of this Rule; or (2) in the manner prescribed by the law of the place in which the service is made for service in that place in an action in any of its courts of general jurisdiction; or (3) by any form of mail addressed to the person to be served and requiring a signed receipt; or (4) as directed by the appropriate foreign authority in response to a letter rogatory; or (5) as directed by order of the court.

Return.

The person serving the process shall make proof of service thereof in writing to the court promptly and in any event within the time during which the person served must respond to the process. If service is made by a person other than a sheriff, deputy sheriff, or special sheriff, he shall make affidavit thereof. Proof of service outside the Commonwealth may be made by affidavit of the individual who made the service or in the manner prescribed by the law of the Commonwealth, or the law of the place in which the service is made for proof of service in an action in any of its courts of general jurisdiction. When service is made by mail, proof of service shall include a receipt signed by the addressee or such other evidence of personal delivery to the addressee as may be satisfactory to the court. Failure to make proof of service does not affect the validity of the service.

Amendment.

At any time in its discretion and upon such terms as it deems just, the court may allow any process or proof of service thereof to be amended unless it clearly appears that material prejudice would result to the substantial rights of the party against whom the process is issued.

Certain Actions in Probate Courts: Service.

Notwithstanding any other provision of these rules, in actions in the Probate Courts in the nature of petitions for instructions or for the allowance of accounts service may be made in accordance with G.L. c. 215, ยง 46, in such manner and form as the court may order.

Land Court.

In actions brought in the Land Court, service shall be made by the court where so provided by statute.

Summons: Time Limit for Service.

If a service of the summons and complaint is not made upon a defendant within 90 days after the filing of the complaint and the party on whose behalf such service was required cannot show good cause why such service was not made within that period, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant without prejudice upon the court’s own initiative with notice to such party or upon motion.

Rule 45. Subpoena

For Attendance of Witnesses; Form; Issuance.

Every subpoena shall be issued by the clerk of court, by a notary public, or by a justice of the peace, shall state the name of the court and the title of the action, and shall command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at a time and place therein specified. The clerk, notary public, or justice of the peace shall issue a subpoena, or a subpoena for the production of documentary evidence, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it who shall fill it in before service.

For Production of Documentary Evidence.

A subpoena may also command the person to whom it is directed to produce the books, papers, documents, or tangible things designated therein; but the court, upon motion made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, may (1) quash or modify the subpoena if it is unreasonable and oppressive or (2) condition denial of the motion upon the advancement by the person in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or tangible things.

Service.

A subpoena may be served by any person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein shall be made by delivering a copy thereof to such person, or by exhibiting it and reading it to him, or by leaving a copy at his place of abode; and by tendering to him the fees for one day’s attendance and the mileage allowed by law. When the subpoena is issued on behalf of the United States or the Commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, or an officer, or agency of either, fees and mileage need not be tendered.

Subpoena for Taking Deposition; Place of Examination.

  1. No subpoena for the taking of a deposition shall be issued prior to the service of a notice to take the deposition. The subpoena may command the person to whom it is directed to produce and permit inspection and copying of designated books, papers, documents, or tangible things which constitute or contain evidence relating to any of the matters within the scope of the examination permitted by these rules, but in that event the subpoena will be subject to the provisions of Rule 26 (c) and subdivision (b) of this rule. A deposition subpoena upon a party which commands the production of documents or things must give the party deponent at least thirty days for compliance after service thereof. Such subpoena shall not require compliance of a defendant within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint on that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The person to whom the subpoena is directed may within 10 days after the service thereof or on or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance if such time is less than 10 days after service, serve upon the attorney designated in the subpoena written objection to inspection or copying of any or all of the designated materials. If objection is made, the party serving the subpoena shall not be entitled to inspect and copy the materials except pursuant to an order of the court from which the subpoena was issued. The party serving the subpoena may if objection has been made, move upon notice to the deponent for an order at any time before or during the taking of the deposition.
  2. Unless the court orders otherwise, a resident of this Commonwealth shall not be required to attend an examination at a place more than 50 airline miles distant from either his residence, place of employment, or place of business, whichever is nearest to the place to which he is subpoenaed. A non-resident of the