Process Servers and the Courts

A Process Server is an individual whose function is the service of court process or legal notices to a particular party in a case or proceeding in a court or administrative body. It is part of the court or agency’s exercise of its jurisdiction over that person to require that person to respond to the proceeding before them. Usually, notice is furnished by delivering a set of court documents (called “process”) to the person to be served.

The existence of Process Servers dates back as early as ancient times. The service of a summons was considered a royal act that had serious consequences. It was a summons to come to the King’s Court and to respond to the demand of a loyal subject. In ancient Persia, failure to respond to the King’s summons meant a sentence of death. Today the penalty for ignoring a summons may be entry of a default money judgment that can subsequently be enforced.

Courts all over the world have different rules regarding the means of service of process. The most common are Summons, Subpoenas, Orders and Notices. Generally,  process should be served upon the defendant personally or, if personal service could not be effected, service to another person of suitable age and discretion at the person’s residence or place of business or employment is considered a valid service in most courts. There are some cases when the service of process may be effected through the mail such as if the place where the person to be served the process lives in another state. In other cases, service may be authorized by procedural rules like service by publication when an individual cannot be located in a particular jurisdiction.

Process Servers play a vital role in court proceedings because it is through the proper service of process like Summons where jurisdiction of the court over the person of the party to be served is acquired. If for example the defendant ignores further pleadings or fails to participate in the proceedings, then the court or administrative body may find the defendant in default and award relief to the claimant, petitioner or plaintiff. Proper service of other processes such as subpoenas, orders or notices is also important for the courts to speedily decide and dispose their cases and clear the court dockets. In most courts, process servers prepare a “Servers’ Return”, which is a report detailing the diligent efforts made by the process server to serve the court process to the party concerned and it tells the court whether or not the court process was duly served or not.