Good day, and welcome once again to the Lafayette Process Servers LLC podcast. I am your host, Louisiana process server Scott Frank, and today we will be speaking about an interesting topic. Are process servers considered officers of the court? What do you think? The answer really changes depending on who you ask, and which state you reside in. So, let’s get right into this polarizing question.
There have been multiple process servers that have identified themselves as an “Officer of the Court” on business cards, LinkedIn, and to their colleagues in the legal field. But, is this an accurate depiction of private process servers, or is it a bit of an overstatement. And, if it is the latter, does it really matter?
Well, the prevailing opinion for years has been that it correct to assume that process servers are officers of the court. But, there is another side to consider that has been gaining momentum in recent years.
First, let’s define the term “officer of the court.” According to Law.com, the term includes “any person who has an obligation to promote justice and effective operation of the judicial system, including judges, the attorneys who appear in court, bailiffs, clerks and other personnel. As officers of the court, lawyers have an absolute ethical duty to tell judges the truth, including avoiding dishonesty or evasion about reasons the attorney or his/her client is not appearing, the location of documents and other matters related to conduct of the courts.”
This certainly seems to include process servers, but does it really? They are not mentioned by name, but are held to all the expectations that are delineated in the definition.
Black’s Law Dictionary, the go-to authority on legalese, defines an officer of the court as follows: “A person who is charged with upholding the law and administering justice.”
Now, using that definition, we would, of course, include judges, bailiffs, clerks, sheriffs, stenographers, peace officers, translators, and, for the last century, at least, attorneys. But, process servers certainly cannot be denied the fact that their work leads to the administration of justice, and they certainly must uphold the law in the performance and course of their duties.
And, while most of those we just listed here work for the state, not all attorneys do. Not all attorneys even appear in court. There are district attorneys, their assistants, and public defenders who are state workers, yet private defense attorneys, and private lawyers that initiate civil lawsuits on the behalf of plaintiffs, are still considered officers of the court. So, are process servers, who are also in business for themselves, also considered officers of the court?
Certainly, they are, say most. They are acting under the authority of the court and taking direction from it as well.
As a matter of fact, there are some states that mandate that all process servers are certified by the court, and derive their authority from it exclusively. In Arizona, this is the case and once process servers are certified by the state’s supreme court, they earn the right by statute to be identified and addressed as officers of the court.
In Cook County, Illinois, process servers must be specially appointed, and, in Oklahoma, process servers need to be licensed and bonded. California also bonds and fingerprints its process servers. As such, these three states refer to their process servers as officers of the court.
Conversely, in New Jersey, the state’s Professional Process Servers Association has always adhered to its Canon of Ethics, which has specifically prohibited it’s members from using the term “officer of the court.”
A Fifth Circuit appellate case in 1996 concurred that a process server in Texas was not an officer of the court for the purposes of removal, and cited a United States Supreme Court case as precedent to back up its ruling. Ironically, since we just compared process servers and attorneys before, the 1956 case stated that within the plain meaning of the term, lawyers are not to be considered as officers of the court.
That means, in states where only employees of the court are considered officers of the court, private attorneys and process servers are not included under that banner. It makes some sense, though in states where process servers are named officers of the court, it seems that they must be somehow licensed or approved by those states. Lawyers must be licensed in every state they practice in, yet they are still not thought of as officers of the court in some states.
Here in Louisiana, we process servers acknowledge that while we serve process in much the same manner as our local parish sheriffs do, it doesn’t really make us official officers of the court. Though, strangely enough, private attorneys do fall into the category in accordance with the statutes.
I do feel that our purpose is an extension of the court, and we really allow due process to occur and justice to prevail. So, at the end of the day, process servers are an integral part of the of court system, whether they are considered officers of the court or not.
We assist in the judicial process by ensuring that all parties are aware of any lawsuits and all other legal actions filed against them or involving them. We propagate justice by delivering subpoenas to expert witnesses and laypeople alike so testimony can be heard on the record, many times changing the courses of complicated civil suits and criminal cases. We even place our selves on the line, oftentimes sacrificing our own safety, to get legal paperwork placed in the right hands. If we aren’t considered officers of the court, we certainly are vital cogs in the machine.
Keep in mind, if you ever have the need to acquire the services of punctual, accurate, and experienced process servers in the Louisiana area, or even in bordering states, give us here at Lafayette Process Servers, LLC a call, text, or email. Our direct number is 1-866-237-2853, or you can send us a quick note at [email protected].
So, that concludes our time together today. Be sure to check out the podcasts on our sister sites, www.baton-rouge-process-servers.com and www.metairie-process-servers.com to learn the answers to even more of your process serving questions. Thanks for listening to us and we’ll see you next week for another informative episode.
The foregoing podcast has simply been presented for informational purposes only. Mr. Scott Frank and his staff at Lafayette Process Servers LLC are not attorneys. Laws and regulations vary among states and specific jurisdictions. If you seek further information about this topic or any other legal issues, please contact an attorney or lawyer in your local area.