I have been in the industry long enough to see and hear of some downright abysmal scruples concerning process servers. For the client, this can make for a difficult time in finding a process server who can get the job done correctly and justly the first time through. Some of the worst breaches in ethics that I have personally become aware of follow below, with the caution to always look into the company that you are selecting to serve your papers.
- In Tucson, the company responsible for the service of process of photo radar tickets found that a rogue employee was lying on hundreds of affidavits he claimed to have personally served. Literally hundreds of tickets were thrown out, and there is supposedly ongoing litigation against the company. While the process server received several years in prison for perjury, the ramifications arising from this situation are very large in scope. I am told this company held this process server in very high regard, and routinely touted his record of personally serving these summons/complaints in such high percentages to other employees, for them to strive to be as productive.
- I have seen numerous papers assigned to me to serve that were previously in the hands of other process servers. When I’ve gone out to serve, I’ve found abandoned houses, locked gates, the subjects of legal papers don’t reside there, or the worst yet, that the address doesn’t even exist. If these other process servers were truly doing their job, these types of concerns are things that need to be related to the clients.
- In reviewing many other process servers’ Proofs of Service, it becomes obvious that there are several process servers who lack experience and knowhow on what constitutes a valid serve. This example might be a lack of knowledge versus a lapse of ethics, but the result can de disastrous for the legal process of someone’s individual case.
- Hidden fees – There are several AZ companies who don’t disclose all of the fees they charge. They might omit such things as return trip mileage, notary prep fees, and unauthorized stakeout time, among others.
- There are companies out there who tout their fast service. Some of these same companies will treat their “rush” serves no differently than their routine serves, but have charges double the price.
- There is a suit in NY that aims to vacate over 100,000 judgments due to process server fraud.
- Foreclosure Fraud may be expanding to Process Servers – The foreclosure fraud apparently didn’t begin and end with the robo-signing of Affidavits relating to how much the homeowner owes the bank. Now foreclosure defense attorneys are looking into whether there has been faulty service on clients by robo process servers. Those people may have filed fraudulent documents with the Court claiming they couldn’t find a homeowner facing foreclosure, despite paperwork clearly setting out a homeowner’s whereabouts.
The bottom line, chaos would result if the legal community could not depend on the truthfulness of declarations of process servers. We, as individuals, must strive to “police” our own community better through education and stiff penalties for abuse. Some of the abuses described above are systemic in certain companies that only care about profits and not the rights of the individuals, whether that be persons to be served or their clients who hire them to serve said papers. By the same token, process servers, by the nature of their job, are delivering bad news to sometimes bad people. There are claims of abuses in these situations that are not substantiated or warranted.
The overall message for the client is to be careful when selecting a company to make your serve. Go with your gut instinct, and if the deal you’re being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is.