Saturday, June 1, 2013

Word of the Month for June 2013: Service of Process

You've Been ServedMany moons ago, I had a great job - I served process on people.  OK, that might not sound all that glamorous, but it did have its moments.  As a Law Librarian teaching people how to find the law, the problem I'm finding most people have is that they don't understand how legal research fits in the legal process.  While I can't go into great detail on everything, I can expound on a few elements of the legal process.  One such element is called SERVICE of PROCESS.

So, picture it.  You finally get the nerve to file a lawsuit against your neighbor for the loud music, barking dogs, and the drugs in the alley.  I mean, a person can only take so much, right?!  The problem now is serving process on your neighbor - and sometimes that's easier said than done.  Most times you're having to serve process on people greasier than a Wal-mart parking lot.  Because it is critical to serve notice/process on the person you are suing, it is equally important to understand how it all works.  

According to Black's Law Dictionary (West), SERVICE of PROCESS is defined as: The formal delivery of a writ, summons, or other legal process.  As it turns out, California (as well as every other state in the union) has a whole slew of rules on how to serve people or entitles (such as corporations).  You can find the law on SERVICE of PROCESS one of two ways.

Way ONE (1):  Go to your local county law library and look at West's Annotated California Code Index, and look under "P" for Process (as in Service of Process).

Way TWO (2):  Go online to and search the Code of Civil Procedure for service of process.  For instance, California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) section 414.10 deals with who can serve process, CCP Sections 415.10 - 415.95 identifies how persons can be served, and Sections 416.10 - 416.90 deal with who can be served process.  So, having identifed who we want to serve the lawsuit on (i.e. neighbor), Sections 416.10 - 416.90 goes one to say a person can be served process by:
  • Physically putting the complaint in your neighbor's hand,
  • Handing the complaint to someone at your neighbor's residence,
  • Mailing (first-class, postage pre-paid) the complaint to your neighbor
For those who don't happen to live in California, locating the rules of Service of Process in other states is simple.  What I did is log onto and in the search field look for "[state] Service of Process rules".  For example, if I were living in Texas, I'd search for "Texas Service of Process rules.  If I were living in Maine, I'd search for Maine Service of Process rules.  For Idaho, Idaho Service of Process rules.  Get the idea?

Finding the law (or how to apply it) can be tricky sometimes.  With a little effort (and a good law Librarian whispering in your ear) however, you're sure to find darn near anything.