By Mark C. Cohrs
The Gasper Law Group
One of the most seemingly simple, yet underestimated tasks that a law office faces is that of process service. From the recipient of the dreaded Summons and Complaint that transforms the law abiding citizen into a “Defendant”, to the unsuspecting soon to be “ex”, the experienced process server needs to expect the unexpected.
Although a recipient will occasionally respond with a relenting “Thank You”, the server will more likely hear a less endearing phrase as he or she retreats to their car, hopefully before the vicious dogs accidentally escape out of the subject’s house. On the other hand, the server can experience simultaneous confusion and relief when the 6’4″, 300 pound biker named Tiny holds out one hand to for the divorce papers, and shakes the server’s hand with a John Wayne grip and says, “Come in for a beer and celebrate with me.”
The successful process server not only needs to become an expert in surveillance techniques, but is also expected to identify and convince an uncooperative subject to open the door and accept service. Incidentally, the word “accept” is subjective in itself, and is often interpreted to mean that the documents were literally thrown at the subject’s feet, followed by the phrase “You got em now.” And let’s not forget that the private server doesn’t possess any type of badge or uniform. In fact, the closest thing to a uniform that a savvy server will wear is a Domino’s ball cap, and their only available weaponry may consist of an empty pizza box, or perhaps a bouquet of flowers for those really desperate assignments.
Now for the best part; the pay is usually conditional on successful service. This dynamic logically and ironically challenges the Affiant’s sworn representation that he or she is a “Disinterested Party”. And if the pay issue doesn’t raise a concern, imagine what happens to the motivation level of the process server when a would be recipient turns a garden hose on them. That server quickly becomes a very interested party, and will be willing to go to great lengths to put those papers in that “hoser’s” hands the next time. That just may be the time to bring in reinforcements. If the target won’t likely be excited over a flower delivery, will they perhaps consider opening the door for a scantily dressed damsel in distress? Let the games begin. And then finally, the papers get served. And just five short minutes ahead of the phone call telling the now gloating process server that the case has been dismissed. So, when your lawyer charges you $75 or $100 or even $200 for process service, just try to smile and write the check.
And here’s a little free advice for those lucky recipients. If you receive a subpoena to appear, you’ll be well served to cooperate with the law office that issued the subpoena. By doing so, the staff can generally work with you regarding scheduling, at least to the best of their ability. You may otherwise be destined to spend countless hours in the hallway of the courthouse. Also remember that failure to appear can result in the court issuing a warrant for your arrest. You also want to be careful to avoid not appearing on the advice of somebody that you are not certain is a legitimate staff member of the issuing attorney. With respect to being served with civil papers such as a Summons and Complaint, your failure to comply as directed will likely result in a default judgment. In short, once you’ve been served, they’ve gotcha!