The history of process service has changed more over the past ten years than ever before, especially within New Jersey. With wait times of ten to thirteen weeks for service of process in the past to today’s industry average of five days, the speed with which process is served has changed drastically. The ability use private process servers instead of the sheriff, along with several large technological advancements have worked together to create a completely different paced industry than ever before.
Within New Jersey, process servers did not always have the right to serve initial process without needing to obtain the signatures of the individuals by acknowledgement of service. Prior to 2000 in New Jersey all private process servers were unable to serve original service of a Summons and Complaint. Under the early rules process servers in New Jersey were required to obtain a signature on an Acknowledgement of Service from a person being served for the service to be considered valid (and you can imagine how that wasn’t always the easiest task).
Beside the signature requirement, there were only two other ways a process server in New Jersey could serve:
- Attorneys needed to obtain an order for special appointment for a process server from the court to allow a private process server to serve the initial papers. This was only allowed on selected matters, such as a case in which an individual leaving the country for six months within the next two weeks, since the sheriff would need at least 3-6 weeks to serve it.
- If the sheriff was unsuccessful in their attempts, then a private process server could attempt service.
The New Jersey Professional Process Servers Association lobbied for this change and was successful in its actions. Law firms supported this option as the timeline for service was considerably reduced in addition to the fact that process servers were willing to attempt service at all hours, increasing the rate of service. Process servers in New Jersey have highly benefited from this, as it cleared the way for the servers to handle a much larger caseload.
The widespread standard use of email has also contributed to shortened service time. With almost instantaneous delivery of files email has gotten rid of the need for lawyers to wait until their documents are delivered by regular mail to process servers. Previously if there was an issue within a file it would need to be sent back to the lawyer to correct and then sent back to the process server, adding on several days to the total case time. Today the file is simply sent back to the client via email, adjustments are made and the file can still be sent out on the same day if necessary.
As the industry continues to expand and develop there is no doubt that there will be several other major changes within process service to look forward to.