Monday, January 1, 2018

Word of the Month for January 2018: Process Server

Service of Process
Once upon a time, long before I became an omnipotent law Librarian, I was a process server.  I dodged bullets, cars, and swinging fists of fury and I learned pretty quick that people really don't like process servers.  They don't like them because most process servers are handing out bad news (i.e. you're being sued).  

One time I had to server process on a police officer whose wife was divorcing him.  He hid behind his badge for weeks.  Finally, I was able to catch up to him and as I handed him the legal documents, he opened his car door to let his service dog out to attack me.  Luckily for me, his 3 year-old boy also jumped out of the car and he had to hold on to the dog as he watched me run away.

So, what is a process server?  According to Black's Law Dictionary (10th Edition), a PROCESS SERVER is:
A person authorized by law or by a court to formally deliver process to a defendant or respondent.
In layman's terms, a PROCESS SERVER is the person who serves notice of process on people. In this case, "process" can be any legal document which gives notice to the other party that something legal is happening.  "Process" can be the initial papers in a lawsuit; or notice that injunction has been filed against them; or that a motion is to be heard in a case they are involved in; or that they are being defaulted. So, a PROCESS SERVER's job is a very important job - but it has its risks, like
If the PROCESS SERVER can't deliver the legal document to the intended party, then the intended party won't get notice that an action is pending against them (or can claim they never received notice). If they don't get notice, then the complaint, motion, or whatever can be dismissed or taken off calendar (for lack of notice).

For example, once, when I was serving notice on a guy who had left his front door wide open.  I announced who I was, and dropped the process just inside his front door.  He asked if it mattered it he didn't pick it up and I said, "Probably not - you've been served," and walked away.  Thing is people always think they have to have the documents physically placed in their hands to be "served" notice.

While each state has their own way of doing things, in California, the rules relating to service of process can be found in 
If you've ever been served or think you might be served or think you might want to be a process server and want to know what you're up against, head on over to your local county law library and bone up on what it takes to run with the big dogs.