Welcome to the Lafayette Process Servers LLC podcast. I’m your host Scott Frank, and today we are going to talk about Process Servers; who they are, what their job entails, why they are important, and the various other nuances of the job.
But, before we delve into the topic of process servers though, it is important to understand what exactly a service of process means and the role it plays in a process server’s occupation.
Let’s assume an instance where an individual or a company is planning to take legal action against your business. To do so, they are required by the law to provide a service of process to notify you or your business that a legal suit has been filed.
This is where service of process comes in. So, the service of process is a formal notice that is sent to the other side to notify them that you have started the legal process. In the same way, when you are already involved in a case and file papers with the court, you are required to give the other side notice of the paperwork you have filed. The legal way to give formal notice is to have the other side “served” with a copy of the paperwork that you have filed with the court. Some examples of documents that comprise service of process include summonses, complaints, subpoenas, writs, and other court documents.
Now that we have established an understanding of what service of process is, let’s move on to talk about process servers.
Process servers are those who perform various tasks such as filing court papers, retrieving documents, and serving legal documents. Their main job, however, is to deliver or more appropriately, “serve” legal documents to defendants/respondents or people involved in court cases.
The process server who delivers the documentation of the lawsuit must make a record of the date the delivery was made, which is referred to as the “date of service.” This date will determine the required deadline to file a response. When the delivery has been made, this is called the “service of process.” After serving any documents, they are expected to also provide actual evidence that the service of process has been carried out successfully. The verification offered in these cases is referred to as affidavit of service or proof of service. These must be notarized and give to the individual entity or the company that requires the papers to be served.
But, why exactly are process servers important? What is the role that they play in due process?
Now, it is stated in the Constitution that a case may be dismissed if a defendant can prove improper service. Now, why would the service of paperwork be so critical that it can cause a judge to completely throw out a legal matter altogether? To understand this, let’s break down some preliminary civil law.
The plaintiff, the one who is suing, serves the defendant, the one being sued, summonses, and complaints. The defendant is then allotted a certain time period within which they are expected to answer the complaint and file it with the court. However, if they do not file a timely answer, they may be subject to a default judgment, which would mean that the plaintiff automatically wins the case. And this is why it is crucial to provide evidence that the defendant was in fact served to prove that they were aware of the proceedings. And in the case that they couldn’t be served, it becomes vital for the plaintiff to submit proof to the court to show that every legal requirement was made to alert the defendant of the pending suit.
So seeing as how due process begins with letting the defendant know about the lawsuit filed against them, it is fair to say that process servers are actually on the “frontlines” of our fundamental right of due process. They play an important role, protecting the right of due process by notifying the defendant that legal action has been taken against them. There have been instances where courts have held that notifying a defendant by mail doesn’t adequately protect their rights as it is possible for the letter to get lost in the mail, or be opened by new occupants of a home, who can then never return it to the post office and inform them that the defendant has moved away. Therefore, the only way to ensure the defendant’s knowledge of legal action is through personal service, which is specifically offered by process servers.
In theory, process serving seems like an easy job. But, tracking people down and delivering the documents is a strenuous process, especially in cases when the receiving party is elusive and ignoring due process at all costs. It comes with its own difficulties and process servers undertake a series of steps in order to ensure that their job is completed. So, let’s learn a little bit more about all the skills required and the work that is done in the average day of a process server:
- Deliver Legal Documents
As I mentioned earlier, the most important duty of a process server is delivering various legal documents by hand to individuals involved with court cases. In this aspect of the role, the process server needs verbal confirmation that the recipient is the individual named in the legal document before serving the papers. They then must collect the individual’s signature to confirm receipt of the document.
- Locate Individuals to be Served
Another major part of a process server’s job is locating individuals involved in court cases, typically using public records databases to identify their current whereabouts and contact information. In many cases, defendants and other individuals involved in cases may leave town or attempt to avoid the process server, in which case they need to use other methods to track down the individual’s location.
- Maintain Delivery Records
Process servers also need to maintain accurate delivery records for all documents they handle, including records of signatures. This part of the job is vital, since improperly recorded deliveries may result in a case being thrown out of court on a technicality. Additionally, process servers may need to prepare reports related to their deliveries for use by lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
- Collaborate with Legal Professionals
Process servers work with a wide variety of legal professionals to support their activities. This can include many different tasks, ranging from collecting documents from lawyers to reviewing information about defendants and other involved parties. Process servers may work with lawyers to establish timelines for deliveries and determine each individual connected to a particular court case. They may need to present reports of their deliveries or testify in court.
- Utilize technology in all aspects
Process servers make use of various databases, spreadsheets, GPS, search engines, and even social media to track down and locate subjects that are more difficult to find. Modes of communication such as emails and e-faxes are also used to deliver documents back and forth between themselves and repeat clients.
- Adhere to State and Local Laws
One important thing to keep in mind is that process serving laws may differ from one city to another and process servers are required to serve papers in the correct manner set within that certain area. This includes how the service is meant to be performed, who is allowed to be served, and adherence to deadlines.
- Possess fantastic research skills
There are many a time when process servers are required to deliver not-so-positive information to recipients. And the recipient usually knows what’s coming ahead and will try to dodge service and hide in general. In such cases, it is required that process servers possess great researching skills and be able to think outside the box in order to track down the recipients.
- Manage intense travel schedules
Delivering documents takes a lot of gruesome and extensive traveling. Besides the everyday meetings with clients and simple process serving (one where they are aware of where the recipient is), they also are forced to spend a lot of time waiting to locate recipients and also lose a lot of time upon following dead ends. And in cases when the recipient is not necessarily opened to being served and is elusive, it ends up taking several attempts before they could be served properly once and for all.
Just like it is with any occupation, there exists some jurisdiction over what a process server may or may not be allowed to do. Especially, given the variety of types of services that exist, sometimes some documents in a legal action require to be served in a specific manner. And therein arises problems for process servers. So, let’s move on to discuss some do’s and don’ts that process servers have to abide by:
- Breaking and Entering is Illegal
Most process servers begin personal service by attempting to serve the person at their home. In most cases, the process server is not trespassing unless the process server unlocks a locked gate or enters a locked building without permission.
If the process server cannot legally enter the property or the building, the process server must come back or wait for the person to leave. When a person is avoiding service at his home or office, the server may wait until the person leaves to serve the papers on the person in a public place.
- Cannot Use Threats or Harassment to Serve Papers
A process server cannot force someone to open a door. The server cannot threaten or coerce the person to force the person to allow entry or accept the document.
- Cannot Pretend to Be something they aren’t
Understandably, sometimes the job of a process server requires them to get creative to reach evasive defendants. But, that does not mean that they are justified in making use of deceptive techniques to fool people under false pretenses.
- Cannot Pretend To Be a Law Enforcement Officer
A process server cannot pretend to be a police officer or other court official to force the person to open a door or accept a document. If a person refuses to open a door, it is illegal for the process server to claim to be a law enforcement officer to compel the person to open the door.
- A Process Server Can Stakeout a Person
While a process server cannot harass or stalk a person that he or she is serving with legal documents, the law does not prevent a process server from waiting outside of a home or business for the person to exit. The process server may also wait in front of a known friend or family member’s home if the server thinks the person will visit there.
- Cannot Leave Papers with a Minor
It may be tempting for a process server to leave the papers with anyone who might answer the door, especially in cases in which a party is avoiding service. The process server cannot leave the papers with anyone who is under the age of 18 years. If the person is evasive, the server may leave the papers with an adult household member.
- Trespassing is Trespassing, Unless…
Unless the state has written specific laws that allow process servers to ignore no-trespassing signs or gates, one cannot ignore them. Process server Mark Burrow provided an excellent tip that some states use color to denote no trespassing: In Texas, purple paint displayed a certain way on fence posts and gates denotes ‘No Trespassing,’ taught in our Texas Process Servers Training Class. Other states have similar laws but require different color paint, [for] example orange or lime green.”
Now, we’ve talked about who a process server is, what their role is and what their role demands of them. But the biggest question that is yet to be addressed is, “When do you need a process server?” Well, it depends on the case, as well as the laws that govern the case in the area. For more serious cases that often involve substantial amounts of money, or for those cases that need to subpoena someone to appear in court, a process server becomes a necessity.
If you are ever in need of experienced process servers, then Lafayette Process Servers LLC is your answer! Contact us at 1-866-237-2853 or send us an email inquiry at [email protected]
And that wraps up our episode for today. If you have a topic suggestion for a future episode, please let us know and we would love to cover it for you! Thank you for listening and we’ll see you next time!
The foregoing Podcast has simply been presented for informational purposes only. He or those at Lafayette Process Servers LLC, are not attorneys. If you seek further information about this topic, contact an attorney in your local area
You can also visit us at YouTube