Rarely anyone hears about process servers in the media unless there is a problem...
Media covers topics that range from "a process server got shot in..." to changes in legislation due to improper service of process. Then there are the articles that mention "sewer" service and the implications on people affected by "bad" process servers. So how do we change that? How do we speak up for the thousands of great process servers who perform their duties and diligently serve the legal documents to help people exercise their Constitutional right to be heard and to defend themselves?
Two articles from DCist this week are particularly disturbing to all professional process servers as the word "sewer service" popped up quite a few times in them. The first article "Thousands of D.C. renters are evicted every year. Do they all know to show up to court?" describes a months-long investigative project that turned up more than 600 cases in just two months where two process servers filed affidavits containing discrepancies. The result was that tenants were not properly notified of their court hearing dates and had little time to properly defend themselves. The article further addresses the fact that there is no mechanism in place in D.C. to check whether process servers are truthful in their affidavits and have accurately delivered the summonses.
The second article "D.C. Council strengthens requirements for notice of eviction cases" follows up on the actions taken by D.C. Council to remedy the situation with sewer service and unanimously approve a new measure requiring landlords to provide photographic evidence that tenants have been given proper notice of evictions filed against them. This article further points out that this amendment came in response to the lengthy investigation as described in the first article. The Council is also planning on moving forward with additional legislation and a broader permanent measure in order to reconsider how to regulate the process service industry.
Emergency Legislation Does Not Help Process Servers
It is not a surprise that legislators move in to address issues whenever they arise as is the case in D.C. after the months-long investigation that uncovered wrongful tenants evictions due to sewer service. If self-regulation is not possible in the industry, then government as in this case has to act and fill in the gaps with what looks like an emergency legislation or legislation that arises from improper service of process. Such legislation is usually not beneficial to most process servers and does not provide a meaningful method in incentivizing process servers who diligently perform their duties.
Sewer Service Media Coverage Does Not Improve Process Servers Reputation
In addition to the emergency legislation that often comes out following media coverage of sewer process service, the effect on the reputation of all process servers is at stake. Both articles mentioned above make general statements that tend to imply that the process service industry is riddled by sewer service. The articles also lead us to believe that if it is not for the efforts of legislators, process servers will continue to fake service and provide false affidavits of service to the courts. None of the two articles emphasize on the fact that the sewer services that led to problems with tenants evictions in D.C. were the product of just two process servers.
Sewer Process Servers in NAPPS?
Prompted by a hint from a process server, the Process Server Center completed an independent research and confirmed that at least one of the process servers mentioned in these two articles is a current member "proudly" shown and marketed on the website of the National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS). This fact itself is very troublesome as it further fuels the assumptions made by the two articles. It further leads us to believe that it is entirely possible that there are many other "sewer" process servers proudly marketing themselves as professional process servers on national process servers platforms.
Self-regulation of the Process Service Industry is Necessary
The two articles in DCist oblige us to react and stand up for all process servers in the United States who are professional and diligent, honest and hard-working. At the Process Server Center we are very disturbed by the findings described in the two articles and we strongly believe that all tenants will be properly notified of a pending case against them if they were being served by one of the many professional process servers in the country. Why legislation to correct improper service of process always targets process servers? Are law firms, paralegals and clients, in general, not responsible for selecting, hiring and managing these same process servers?
At the Process Server Center we believe that the process service industry needs to advance nationally as an industry. We believe that self-regulation is the best approach in regulating not only process servers but also process service managers, lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants who manage, instruct and oversee process servers. We aim to change the way clients select process servers and offer a practical solution to find process servers based on their qualities and prior service record. We believe that self-regulation is always better than emergency regulation and we offer a progressive approach to limit the ease of entry to the process server profession, and award the truly professional process servers with the reputation and increased fees they deserve.
Perhaps the time will come soon when media coverage would also tell us the story of the many great professional process servers throughout the country and we will be proud to read about them!
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