Process Servers Trump Local Sheriffs and Constables
- November 08, 2016
- by Stephanie Irvine
- In the News
Civil process service is an integral component of due process and of our legal systems, and we rely on others to serve process in order to ensure that every person’s right to due process is upheld. In many states across the country, civil process service can be completed by anyone over the age of 18 and who is not a party to court proceedings. Although there are some states in which civil process service can only be served by a sheriff, constable, marshal, or bailiff, there are many states that allow its people their choice of private process server, sheriff, constable, marshal, or bailiff. Here are a few reasons why, when given a choice, you should always opt for a private process server:
Politics Muddling Service of Process
Because private process servers aren’t elected officials, you won’t have to worry about them getting caught up in the politics of funding, workloads, and political influence. It’s an unfortunate reality that many departments struggle with politics in getting in the way of completing the job. For example, in Tennessee, private process servers, sheriffs departments, and constables are all permitted to serve court documents, but one constable recently expressed concerns that the workload wasn’t fairly being distributed. Last year, in Milwaukee County Wisconsin, a bill for funding was reportedly vetoed due to incendiary comments that the sheriff made. In that county, the sheriff’s department is responsible for civil process service, which means that without appropriate funding, manpower and service could suffer.
Again, funding often plays a role here. Sheriff's departments have intricate systems that handle a whole lot more than just civil process service. As a result, upgrading technology typically requires a massive overhaul, which means that the technology involved in civil process service (cameras, document scanners, GPS, etc.) may not be the best. For example, in North Carolina, the Pitt County Sheriff’s department just received a part of a grant (they are sharing it with the Greenville Police Department), which will pay for “necessities they couldn't afford in their budgets,” which includes body cameras and other equipment. Successful private process servers aren’t reliant upon government budgets to invest in the type technology needed to meet their clients’ requirements.
A Matter of Priorities
As we mentioned, private process servers aren’t caught up with other preoccupations (other job responsibilities, politics, etc.), which means that your service will be a priority. They won’t have any other types of jobs that will interfere with yours because their job is, in most cases, solely to serve process. Some process servers may handle court filing, skip filing, and private detective work, but in those instances, the companies are likely large-scale and have entire departments that explicitly handle each task, or they schedule their workload accordingly. Because the livelihood and business of a private process server depends on getting the work, they won’t be distracted from getting the job done.
Process Servers Provide Expeditious and Thorough Service
A survey of over 100 paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries conducted in late 2011 showed that civil process servers consistently outperformed sheriff’s departments in speed, (90% of the time, process servers were faster), knowledge, and success rate. Because process servers work independently and aren’t on a scheduled shift, they can choose to make service attempts outside of non-traditional business hours when recipients are more likely to be available.
For example, in Palm Beach County Florida, the Sheriff’s department processes more than 120,000 requests for civil process service annually. The Civil Process Service Unit, which consists of 194 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Court Services professionals, has limited hours, posted on the website as 8:30am until 4:30pm. While the Sheriff’s Department may still make three separate attempts, you can’t guarantee that they will be spaced out or attempted in a manner that would result in the highest probability that the documents could be served. Private process servers often abide by client requests to serve at specific times, and they may even have training for their process servers that requires them to space out their attempts.
Choose Private Process Servers
Overall, independent, private process servers are still the best choice when it comes to civil process service because of their dedication to the job, efficiency, and ability to meet clients’ needs.