Contributed by: Amanda Sexton

What Our Process Servers Are Thankful For

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Thanksgiving is coming up quickly, so we decided to take a moment to reflect on what we’re thankful for as process servers in general.

 

We’re thankful for when photos give us a helping hand.  

It’s the nature of process service that sometimes subjects won’t be entirely honest with us when they answer the door. Sometimes we’re told the subject no longer lives at the residence or that they’re simply there as a house sitter or dog watcher.

Without a picture or description of the individual, it can be difficult to tell whose telling the truth and whose trying to throw us off. Having a picture or description though makes service much easier – even when the subject doesn’t tell the truth!

 

 


 

We’re thankful for people who graciously accept service.

The news we’re delivering is often times not the most welcome and can be in reference to highly emotional situations such as foreclosure and divorce. It’s not always easy to receive such a message and we’re always grateful when people are kind enough to not blame the messenger.

 


 

We’re thankful for when unexpected tips pop up.   

Sometimes, when it’s least expected, those little pieces of information pop up that are so hugely helpful we can’t help but be grateful. From the neighbor out mowing their lawn letting us know the subject works in the city and isn’t home until after 9 every night to the tenant knowing where the subject moved to, once in a while we get lucky. And it’s more than enough to make our day.

 


 

We’re thankful for when we get extra service details.

Have an alternate address? Know the hours the subject works? Have a picture? All of this information is like gold, and we act accordingly when our clients give us these details. More details means quicker service. A win-win for everybody!

 


 

We’re thankful for having a job we really enjoy.  

We’re all grateful to have a job we like as well as the freedom it allows. No, we don’t like giving bad news. What we do like is protecting due process rights while being able to create our own hours, preferably with the windows down and our favorite music playing in between stops.

 

We have a lot to be grateful for at Thanksgiving, that’s for sure.

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Court Rules Sheriffs’ Ban On Georgia Process Servers Legal

Posted by | Rulings | No Comments

Georgia process servers

 

Georgia Court Rules Sheriffs’ Ban On Process Servers Legal

The Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled that the sheriff’s ban on process service is legal under the current court rules in a tough blow to Georgia process servers.

Background

The Georgia Association of Professional Process Servers (GAPPS) filed suit against the sheriffs of multiple counties, looking for intervention from the court to allow them to serve process. Although the rules state process servers can serve in Georgia if the sheriff of a particular county allowed it, not many sheriffs were doing so which was essentially rendering the rule useless.

The Sheriffs argued that the rule gave them the choice and they were simply choosing not to allow private process servers in their counties.

The trial court originally found in favor of the Sheriffs and GAPPS appealed.

Supreme Court Rulings

On relief:

In the ruling, the Judges cited the specific Georgia rules relevant to the decision in OCGA § 9-11-4.1  sections (a) and (h)(1):

Certified process servers. A person at least 18 years of age who files with a sheriff of any county of this state an application stating that the movant complies with this Code section and any procedures and requirements set forth in any rules or regulations promulgated by the Judicial Council of Georgia regarding this Code section shall, absent good cause shown, be certified as a process server. Such certification shall be effective for a period of three years or until such approval is withdrawn by a superior court judge upon good cause shown, whichever shall first occur. Such certified process server shall be entitled to serve in such capacity for any court of the state, anywhere within the state, provided that the sheriff of the county for which process is to be served allows such servers to serve process in such county.

…….

 (h) Notice to Sheriff

(1) Prior to the first time that a certified process server serves process in any county, he or she shall file with the sheriff of the county a written notice, in such form as shall be prescribed by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, of his or her intent to serve process in that county. Such notice shall only be accepted by a sheriff who allows certified process servers to serve process in his or her county. Such notice shall be effective for a period of one year; and a new notice shall be filed before the certified process servers again serves process in that county after expiration of the one-year period.

The trial court originally found “the plain language of the statute barred declaratory and injunctive relief”. In the appeal, the Supreme Court ruled the trial court should have dismissed those claims, as the Sheriffs had raised the defense of sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity is meant to provide those acting in the capacity of their job for the government immunity from civil or criminal suits. Sheriffs fall under this grouping as they are acting “as an arm of the government”. Declaratory judgment and injunctive relief are barred by sovereign immunity so the Supreme Court vacated that part of the trial courts’ order.

On mandamus:

GAPPS had requested mandamus, a writ in which the court commands someone to perform a public or statutory duty, in their appeal in an effort to get the Sheriffs to allow the use of certified process servers. It was this particular request for mandamus that took this appeal from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.

The court found GAPPS didn’t show a clear legal right to mandamus , stating the Sheriffs did indeed have the right to choose and if they chose to not allow private process in their county “the court cannot force them to do so”.

The opinion focused on the inability of the law to force a particular outcome when a law requires an official to make a decision or use discretion. The analogy used in the opinion was that of the Secretary of State needing to decide boundary lines between counties. The line needed to be figured out, but the court couldn’t say where that line should be. It was up to the Secretary of State.

On attorney fees:

Because GAPPS did not “prevail on its claims”, the court ruled the association wasn’t entitled to attorney fees.

The future for Georgia process servers

A lot hinged on this case for Georgia process servers and it’s certainly a blow to have all claims denied. As it stands, certified process servers will continue to only be able to serve in the very few counties where they are currently approved to serve by the Sheriff.

 

 

 

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Michigan Bill To Make Filing A False Certification A Felony

Posted by | Legislation/Bills | No Comments

false certification

 

A Michigan bill has been introduced with the intention of making false certification of personal service a felony charge in an effort to create stronger consequences and more accountability in process service.

House Bills 4666 and 4670 would classify the false certification of personal service as a felony violation in the Code of Criminal Procedure. One of the sponsors, State Rep. Joe Bellino, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on October 24th in favor of the bill, citing the need for greater accountability for those who serve legal notices.

“Falsely claiming to serve notice of a court proceeding, when in fact the individual involved did not receive the notice, can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, process servers who commit fraud are hardly ever held accountable in Michigan. Only rarely are they found in contempt of court, which typically results in a small fine or, at most, 90 days in jail.”

The bill would introduce the following language, effectively turning lying on an affidavit into a felony charge by adding the following lines:

(3) an individual who intentionally makes a false declaration under subsection (1) (B) (ii) (B) is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or both.

The proposed punishment is a big change from the current one of no more than 90 days in prison.

Subsection (1) (B) (ii) (B) is also a new addition. The rule change would have one of the following statements selected as applicable and placed above the date and signature on the certification:

  • “I am a law enforcement officer serving under an oath of office and declare that I have examined this proof of service and its contents are true to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief”.
  • “The preceding paragraph does not apply, and I declare under the penalty of perjury that I have examined this proof of service and its contents are true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief”.

We’ll keep you posted on whether or not the bill is actually passed.

Does anyone know of a state where making false statements in an affidavit or certification for process service is a felony charge?

Read the full bill text here:

House Bill 4666

House Bill 4670

 

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Happy 2017 Paralegal Day!

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

All of us here at DGR would like to wish all New Jersey paralegals happy Paralegal Day, as proclaimed by Governor Chris Christie.

Paralegals play an important role in the legal system and we often hear attorneys tell us they are only as good as the paralegals who support them.

Here is the full text of the proclamation:

Whereas, the State of New Jersey recognizes the many contributions of paralegals to the legal profession in the Garden State; and

Whereas, it is known that paralegals possess important legal skills and perform substantive legal tasks; and

Whereas, paralegals provide critical legal services to large and small companies, individuals and public entities throughout New Jersey;

Now, therefore, I, Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey, do hereby proclaim:

October 20, 2017 at Paralegal Day in New Jersey and recognize paralegals as important partners in the delivery of legal services. 

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DGR Serves First Instances of Service Via Social Media Through LinkedIn & Instagram

Posted by | DGR News, Electronic Service of Process | No Comments

service via social media

DGR has served the very first instances of service by LinkedIn and service by Instagram in the world. The case’s uniqueness is added to by the approval of alternate service via social media in a non-matrimonial matter, which could have significant impacts on future similar motions.

E-service history

Electronic service of process is not exactly new, with the first case of e-mail service happening 15 years ago in Rio Properties, Inc.  v. Rio Properties Interlink. Yet electronic service by social media platforms was unchartered territory up until 2011 when a judge approved alternate service via Facebook in a divorce case in Mpafe v. Mpafe. Since then there’s been sporadic approval of electronic service of process cases across the country, with all taking place in the family court and the majority taking place in New York.

The opinions in each case have indicated a similar set of requirements for approving service via social media. Judges have looked to ensure adequate due diligence has been conducted in attempting to serve the subject personally, that the social media accounts belong to the appropriate subject and that there is a likelihood the service documents will actually be seen.

The current general alternate method of service is publication which can be a costly endeavor, especially if multiple weeks are required in more than one publication.  Given the large number of users on social media platforms and the declining rates of physical newspaper purchases and subscriptions, social media is a viable alternate method of service wherein the subject is more likely to see the service documents.

Case and approval for service by social media

In Harleysville Insurance Company of New Jersey v. Mega Security Corp, a Law Division matter, the plaintiff was unable to serve the representative of the company despite numerous attempts. The attorney of record then conducted multiple searches to attempt to locate alternate service addresses for the subject and was unable to do so.

The judge ultimately approved of alternate service in four formats on accounts deemed to be that of the subject: email, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. The service was to be sent over all four channels for three consecutive weeks in a row.

How service was effectuated

Each social media platform operates differently including:

  • Ability to send files, links or only plain-text
  • Read receipts enabled
  • Ability to send from professional versus personal accounts

Each platform required a specific set of steps to ensure ethical and accurate delivery of the service documents.

In order to ensure acceptance by the court and the appropriate authentication of the service attempts, DGR securely captured and stored HTML and metadata for each attempt. The courts have been demanding higher levels of authentication for submissions of electronic evidence or documentation. Gone are the days where a screenshot is substantial proof.

What this case means for service via social media

The most interesting part of this entire case was not the choice of platform. It’s well known that individuals who have one social media account generally have others. Best practices would support attempting service across all available channels. Rather, it’s the type of case that shows a true shift in the acceptance of social media service as an alternate service method.

Prior to Harleysville Insurance v Mega, the general impression was that approval of service via social media was primarily only acceptable in family law matters. This new precedent opens the doors for many a case where personal service has been attempted without success, substantial effort has been made to locate the individual or a new address and there is evidence of active social media accounts.

This case now marks two instances of service via social media in New Jersey. With clear guidelines as to what to include in requests for alternate service via social media and a set process in place to ensure service is authenticated and will stand up if contested, we may start seeing social media become the primary option for alternate service when the subject has at least once active social media account.

 

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What New Jersey Law Firms Need To Know About E-Filing & Vendors

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vendor e-filing New Jersey

There are currently vendors offering a variety of e-filing services, from filing affidavits to filing the initial action. Here’s what every law firm, attorney and paralegal needs to know when using these types of services.

E-filing logins

E-Court logins in New Jersey will only be made available to attorneys in good standing. No vendor, paralegal or other type of individual will be given logins and the Courts have no plan to do so.

This means to file any pleading related to a case, the attorney’s specific login must be used.

The Court’s view

The Court has made clear it is purposely not taking a stance on the issue. At a recent meeting  attended by DGR, Elisabeth Ann Strom, Esq. of the New Jersey Judiciary stated the Court is not taking a position but stressed the attorney whose credentials are used to login will be liable for whatever document is filed.

Possible ramifications

There are many issues which could arise when individuals outside of the law firm use an attorney’s login.

The first potential issue comes down to human error. The process to upload documents to the E-Courts website is completely manual, which inherently creates the opportunity for incorrect documents to be uploaded and/or filed. This means an incorrect pleading could be filed for that case or even a document which has nothing to do with that case or that client. If an incorrect document is filed the attorney must file a motion and pay a $50 fee to have it removed. The Court considers the document to be part of the record for that case, so to remove it there must be a trail indicating the document existed in the first place.

Regardless of who files the pleading –  attorney, paralegal or vendor – the Court will hold the individual attorney whose credentials were used liable.

The second issue is the possibility of personal identifying information residing in part of the case documents. Any document uploaded to the system is public, with the exception of the criminal division where documents can be assigned a confidentiality level. The importance of removing information such as social security numbers and addresses prior to uploading becomes higher than ever, as there is no third party review prior to the documents becoming available to the public. The repercussions for leaving such information in a document could expose an attorney up to potential HIPPA or Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act violations.

When a vendor logs in to the E-Court to file a pleading on behalf of the attorney, the vendor not only has access to the Law and Chancery Divisions but also to the Criminal Division. Any pleadings filed for the attorney’s client in all Court Divisions become accessible to the vendor, whether they are sealed, privileged or not. The vendor has full access to the case just as the attorney would as well as any other cases in all the Court Divisions in which the attorney has represented that client.

What law firms need to know

When choosing whether to have a vendor e-file on behalf of the law firm, be aware of the possible repercussions. The attorney is liable for missed deadlines, misfiled documents, the release of privileged information, etc.  The Courts lack of an official opinion means at any point the Court’s decision could change leaving those attorneys who allow vendors to use their logins at risk to what could be interpreted as negligent behavior by the attorney resulting in sanctions or other forms of discipline. Risks also include the possibility of missing deadlines, misfiling documents and HIPPA/GLBA violations.

Before choosing to allow a vendor to e-file, the firm should carefully weigh the decision.

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DGR Voted “Best Of” For Messenger Service In New Jersey

Posted by | DGR News, Messenger Service | No Comments

best messenger service New JerseyFor the sixth consecutive year, DGR – The Source for Legal Support has been voted the “Best Of” in messenger service companies in New Jersey by the legal community in the annual New Jersey Law Journal “Best Of” survey.

Anyone who works at a law firm is eligible to cast their vote in the survey, which covers a broad range of legal support service providers, from litigation support to financial services to technology.

“We’re very grateful to our clients for taking the vote and give us this honor”, says Jerry Colasurdo, President and owner of DGR. “The longevity of our employees helps tremendously when it comes to messenger service. Over the years they’ve learned the best routes, how to quickly navigate the local courts and how to efficiently handle any delivery while accounting for potential traffic or delays”.

With more than 90 employees, DGR offers same-day messenger service in New Jersey for firms of every size. DGR also won the “Best Of” in process service for its national and international process service and its sister company, On The Lookout Investigations, won in the Private Investigations and Security category.

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DGR Voted “Best Of” New Jersey Process Server In NJLJ Survey

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best of New Jersey process serverFor the sixth year in a row, DGR – The Source for Legal Support has been voted the “Best Of” in process service companies in New Jersey by the legal community in the annual New Jersey Law Journal “Best Of” survey.

Anyone who works at a law firm is eligible to cast their vote in the survey, which covers a broad range of legal support service providers, from litigation support to financial services to technology.

“We’re always so grateful to our clients for their recognition of our hard work and the level of service we strive to provide”, says Jerry Colasurdo, owner and President of DGR. “Our team works diligently day in and day out to make sure we’re exceeding our client’s expectations and really setting the bar with what they should when it comes to their process server. Without our staff there’s no way we could have achieved this, so I’m looking forward to yet another year with such outstanding employees”.

With more than 90 employees and 36 years of experience, DGR offers local, national and international process service to firms of all sizes.  DGR also won the “Best Of” in messenger service for the sixth year and its sister company, On The Lookout Investigations, won in the Private Investigations and Security category for the fifth year in a row.

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The Future of Webcam Notarization and Process Service

Posted by | Notary | No Comments

webcam notarizationNotarization is one of the few things that have remained unchanged in the past few centuries. Yet the passing of bills in several states is about to propel it into the digital age with the use of webcam notarization rather than in person notarization which could impact the future of process service and affidavits.

Each year hundreds of millions of documents in the US are notarized including wills, citizenship forms, mortgages and affidavits. To help facilitate the process, Virginia became the first to create a remote notarization law in 2012 with Texas following in their footsteps.

Today there are several sites and apps that allow for remote notaries including NotaryCam, Safedocs and DocVerify. However this type of notarization will only be accepted within Virginia and Texas even though anyone in any state can utilize the services.

How it works

The use of webcam notaries is pretty straightforward. A document is uploaded, you connect with the notary by video chat, verify your identity and the notary witnesses you signing your name on the screen with your mouse or finger. Then the notary adds their signature and electronic seal or stamp.

The security goes a little further than the notary just asking you to hold up your ID card though. Usually the ID is run through a third-party system and the notary will ask some questions similar to the ones you get when trying to open up a line of credit such as “Have you ever lived on Littleton Road” or “Do you have a line of credit with DGR”?

Generally both the audio and video of the transaction is saved to a third party provider in compliance with the requirements of retention rules.

Pros and cons

There are over 4 million notaries in the US and they’re all extremely divided. On one hand, this helps streamline a process many consider arduous and bring it into the digital age. On the other, some are concerned there is more opportunity for coercion as one could be pressured by someone outside of the camera range.

Webcam notarization generally involves saving the audio and video , which would help to provide accountability as to the actual events of a given notarization.

Impact on process service and the legal community

Currently in New Jersey process servers are required to notarize affidavits of service. Being able to notarize via webcam would expedite the process of getting affidavits to a law firm. With the implementation of e-filing in the NJ court, this would enable affidavits to be filed more quickly, helping to streamline case timelines.

Not every state requires notarization of affidavits for service of process, so the introduction of webcams wouldn’t stand to expedite the affidavit return process across the nation. For the states where it applies however, it could save a process server time for having to go to a physical notary depending on how efficient the webcam notarization process is.

The future of webcam notarization

Just this year alone nine states considered webcam notarization. Four states are still considering their proposals (Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania) while five states didn’t go forward with the proposals (Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri).

So far digitally notarized documents have been considered valid across state lines so as this becomes more common and widely known, it’s quite plausible more states will become open to passing bills related to webcam notarization. Until then, there’s always the in-person notary process that’s been around for centuries.

 

 

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Tennessee Judge’s Decision Highlights Importance of PROFESSIONAL Process Servers

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professional process servers

The recent decision of a Tennessee Judge to direct all work from private process servers to the Sheriff’s Office in Knox county highlights why it’s so important for process servers to be professional at all times.

Judge Chuck Cerny halted private process servers from serving after an incident where a process server “harassed and scared someone in the middle of the night”.  The process server was unidentified and as a result the Judge has taken action against all private process servers in the county.

“I just felt like doing something kind of immediate in response to this one particular incident was justified at this time”, said Cerny.

The importance of professionalism

Cerny’s swift response shows the significant impact the actions of just one process server can have on an entire industry and the livelihood of private process servers. More than ever, it is important for process servers to behave professionally no matter what situation arises. Attempting service in the middle of the night, unless the subject has arranged for the meeting, is generally uncalled for. For example, at DGR service isn’t attempted before 6am or after 10pm for litigation matters.

Regardless of the hour service is attempted, if a subject calls the police and claims to be harassed it is very important for the process server to speak with the authorities. Often times there are two sides to a story and when a process server goes unidentified it leaves only one-side to be heard, which can leave process servers as a whole looking bad.

The future of process servers in Knox County

Private process servers will be allowed to serve again after they have undergone a court-sanctioned procedure which has not yet been specified. 70% of the documents that need to be served generally go through private process servers, so the Sheriff’s office will see a significant increase in workload. But it’s clear the Judge’s actions were motivated by the understandable desire to protect the citizens of Knox County and he’s willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Keys to staying professional

Private process servers can stay professional, and keep our industry in a positive light, by:

  • Attempting service during reasonable hours
  • Never presenting themselves as anything other than process servers without the appropriate designation
  • Keeping calm even in the face of a hostile subject
  • If a subject calls the police, removing themselves to a safe location and awaiting their arrival to ensure both sides of the story are heard
  • Keeping up on training of local procedures, rules and laws
  • Being a part of professional associations

Private process servers play an important role in the legal system, but we all have to remember how quickly the actions of one person could change everything for an entire industry. Not only must we ourselves stay professional but we have to also encourage our fellow process servers to do the same.

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