Arranging service documents for legal matters can surely be arduous work. On top of building a case's groundwork and drafting its papers, the legal process also includes the actual files to be delivered from one party to the other.
More often than not, these types of documents are given to a defendant who's required to make an appearance in court. Being a part of the service of process, the defendant must be granted an initial notice of a court case especially since they are expected to provide a response before court. Failing to give the defendant a formal notice regarding the case against them could potentially cause a delay and might even result in repeating the entire process itself.
Certainly, this kind of work adds to the responsibilities of a legal professional.
Luckily, lawyers are not left to do everything by themselves. Process servers save the day as they focus on the legwork and serve legal documents. Doing so means they officially hand over the court papers with the statements of the plaintiff on behalf of their team. Since the law believes that the individual or organization is innocent until proven guilty, the opposing party is given the chance to organize and craft a statement in their defense.
Table of Contents
What does a process server do?
Working for the law isn't just showing up in front of a chief judge with papers and arguments ready. What we often don't see are the preparations that happen off the court. And as with almost everything, what happens in the background is just as important as the prime scene.
Case in point, legal actions cannot begin without an official notice from the plaintiff detailing the reasons why they are calling an individual or organization to court. This notice also outlines the opposing claims coming from both parties and mentions the court or tribunal where the legal proceeding will take place.
A day in the life of a professional process server
A process server's main duty is to serve legal documents, carrying the responsibility of ensuring that the defendant receives this notice for the defending party to prepare their defense. Aligned with how the court must uphold due process of the law, this essential step allows the other party a chance to stand in court and present a well-structured defense to contest the plaintiff's claim.
Let's paint you the simplest picture of how their service can play out: a process server starts their personal service by paying a visit to the defendant's property, area or car, knocks on their door and confirms his or her identity before handing over the document.
Now that we've established their central function, there are also different tasks they can undertake alongside the serve process. These trained process servers can also take care of the retrieval of papers while in some instances, their services are in connection with filing legal papers for their clients.
Legal Papers for Delivery
Given that description, can a process server hand over any document to a defendant or is it limited to papers concerning Small Claims actions? To give an example, process servers may serve the following:
- Court summons
- Divorce petitions
- Other legal documents
Since they carry important court papers needed in legal action, there must be proof that the court documents were indeed served. That said, a process server must provide a notarized proof of service that will stand as their record of having completed the delivery.
Securing this affidavit is important not only to the process server, but also to the party with the legal action request should there be any problems that arise. For safety and assurance, it would be best to document the affidavit of service. A professional process server will have a well-maintained record of successfully delivered documents that they submit to other legal professionals.
A search to serve papers
Seems like a simple delivery job in the name of the law? On the contrary! To assume it's always simple means to disregard how troublesome going after people can be. As a matter of fact, a process service cannot be complete without conducting their own proper research.
For them to serve the legal papers, a process server must first know where to deliver the said documents. Listed in their job description is the task of finding the defendant to hand the papers over, and thus this job requires substantial investigative and research skills in order to successfully perform their main duty.
In these situations, finding out the location of the defendant counts as research and falls under the responsibilities of a process server so, yes, surveillance work and staking out counts as methods of research here. Well, aside from checking out specialized databases, that is. This part is crucial particularly because process servers will have to know the concerned individual's whereabouts and contact details for them to successfully serve papers.
For the «hard to find»
There might be extraordinary instances where an individual to be served legal documents cannot be located when process servers search online databases. Understandably, some defendants would avoid the service and would rather not undergo a court proceeding, making it complicated for a process server to contact or locate them. In the event that they encounter a "hard to find" individual, a process server can practice the method of skip tracing to determine the defendant's location. Still, this skip tracing technique must remain within the limits set by the law.
Due diligence in personal service
This term encompasses many fields, but for a process server, what does it mean to exhibit due diligence in their service?
Many process servers excel at their job and perhaps we can attribute it to their due diligence that allows them to thrive in this environment and produce high quality service. In most cases, a process server would attempt every possible (and legal!) action multiple times in their personal service before moving on to pursue a different strategy, one that involves substituted service.
To illustrate, there are people who seem to have fallen off the radar and could not be located in their usual areas. A process server can try everything yet still be unsuccessful in locating the individual, but that only means they will eventually try other methods that could potentially resolve the hindrances they found.
Methods of multiples
A process server could look into the person's forwarding address, pose an inquiry to the post office, or make other attempts such as visiting the property during different times of the day and on varying days, too. Keeping a record of these efforts will convince the court that the process server has done all feasible options yet has still not located the individual, the plaintiff could make a request and seek a court order allowing a substituted service instead.
How do I become a process server?
Training a process server
Serving legal documents sure is an important step in the larger process of upholding justice in the law. It's because of this that a process server will, more or less, undergo training on the ins and outs of the service of process before reaching the professional status.
This training ensures that they demonstrate proper knowledge of the specific rules and obligations that are tied to being a process server. It's highly likely for a process server to choose to gain a license or certifications that validate their expertise in this matter and the laws that apply within the city.
Having a process server that's familiarized with the law is also a plus since this sets another guarantee that they will adhere to the laws and regulations, lessening the likelihood of accidental liabilities which could affect the case negatively.
However, licensing requirements could vary from city to city. Other states may not even be that particular with having all process servers be licensed, although the plaintiff could still prefer their process server to present a license as proof of certification as a guarantee that they have deep understanding of the regulations and will not cause any delays or penalties to the case.
In actuality, many states only require an applying process server to be over 18 years old and not be a party to the case. It goes without saying that a process server should be unbiased, and being not a party to the lawsuit means they will not have any interest in the case's potential outcome.
So, what can’t process servers do?
Naturally, because they work within the realm of the laws, a process server does not have immunity to bypass any law in the name of service. How ironic would it be if a process server himself fails to display lawful conduct? As mentioned, process servers must adhere to the professional standards and not make use of violent or unlawful measures just to accomplish their service.
As an example, a process server cannot falsify their identity and mask their actual motive in an attempt to deceive the individual into receiving the document. Reasonably, people might be more obliged to open doors when a police officer knocks compared to when a civilian does, but pretending to be a law enforcement officer is not in accordance with the job's regulations and could even result in a criminal case against the process server.
Another possible violation would be forceful breaking and entering of a property for the sake of fulfilling the service asked of them. Trespassing, as a fault in the eyes of the law, will not be excused, and might even bring problems to the case itself and fines charged to the process server. What is a process server left to do, then, if doors remain locked? Should this be the case, a diligent process server will wait for the person to leave the locked property or await the person to be in a public place in order to hand in the document.
Why should you get a process server?
Many legal professionals will agree that processing and serving legal documents is an additional nuisance in the already strenuous task of preparing for a court appearance or legal proceeding. To lessen the inconvenience of physically going to a defendant to serve papers, a competent process server takes over and ensures that the plaintiff follows the procedural order, which necessitates sending out official notice before a court order can even begin.
Private process servers are all the more important as they provide proper, legal and speedy service despite the possibility of facing restrictive circumstances. If the defendant is proven to not have been served in a timely and proper manner, the plaintiff's case may be deferred until proof of service is presented to the court. The court could also require the plaintiff to repeat the entire process from the beginning. Looking at the worst case scenario, a court official may also consider dismissing the lawsuit altogether. So in both party's best interest, legal documents must be served appropriately and in line with the law.
Accompanied by a company
If a plaintiff looks into a company offering this service, they must still take into account the company's credentials and reputation. How they have served previous clients can give an indication on how well they will provide their service to you, too.
The saying goes, "put your best foot forward". In the legal world, a good process server puts your case in the best foot forward as they provide the notice that a case has been initiated.
After all, the first few steps are the most crucial, since doing this job well eliminates the delays and difficulties that could push back lawsuits. See Austin Powers, a company that has created its mark in the legal community of Texas as a dependable company offering process service for more than 20 years now. Trust only those that have exemplified efficient service of process for years and has established a reputable name amongst many businesses. Let Austin Process do the legwork and investigations while your team does the rest of the preparations.