Thursday, August 2, 2012

21st Century Service

Every once in a while I get an idea. Here this year's:

Every business entity should be required to maintain a registered email address for receiving electronic service of process.

The most annoying part about starting a lawsuit is serving the other party with the summons and complaint. Usually this requires hiring a process server to make personal delivery. In some places—like Cook County—you have to hire the sheriff to do it (or try to do it) first. This can take a while. And service can be evaded.

Obviously, personal service serves the important function of making sure the defendant is actually aware of the new lawsuit. But nowadays, for most of us, many of our important communications are done electronically. This is especially true for business entities. For example, every document I filed to create my law firm—Torvik Law LLC—was filed electronically.

Eventually, I think we'll all have some sort of registered electronic address that we'll be deemed to be monitoring for receiving important communications. It's probably too soon to enforce that for individuals. But there's no reason why we can't force every business entity to have one already. We already require them to maintain a "registered agent." Just make it so that the registered agent has to have and monitor an email address, and service of process will get a whole lot easier, modern, and more rational.


  1. It seems to me that this should work for companies that register to do business within a state. Just like those entities agree to accept service through the Secretary of Stae, they could agree that electronic service through a particular email address is sufficient.

    However, I would oppose such a rule for individuals. Why should people be forced to maintain an internet address? Because we want to put process servers out of their jobs?

  2. I'm not motivated by putting process servers out of jobs. But their jobs are essentially obsolete, or will be soon.

    We force every one to get a social security card; why not force every once to maintain an email account? I'm not even saying they should have to pay for it. Just check it. Everyone should (and will, eventually) have a government managed electronic address at which they can be sent official correspondence. If you think in the long term, like 100 years, it's impossible to believe we will still require physical service of tangible process. Clearly the technology exists already, so why not now?

    Like I said, though, I'm willing to wait a few years for individuals. And maybe you can make some sort of exception for luddites. But eventually we'll probably get a state-issued email address along with our IDs (which themselves will probably be completely electronic within a decade or two). The future is coming ... watch out!

  3. a process server, my job is most certainly not obsolete, and I don't think it will be soon either.

  4. Fair enough, Anonymous. What I really mean is that we have the technology to make process serving obsolete—at least for service on business entities— and it is really only outdated laws that are standing in the way. To be clear: I have nothing against the process serving industry or the people in it, I just think we can change the rules to make things a lot more efficient.

  5. Could happen, however there have already been several Federal Judges that have ruled on many different cases that IP addresses are not people, for many reasons. Along those lines there is no guarantee that the email wouldn't get lost in cyberspace (have you ever had someone tell you they sent you an email but you honestly never received it?), or that you would would always be the sole person opening the email. So I think that logic would catch on and snowball quicker than your suggestion.

    *(did not want to submit as anonymous, but it was the only profile option that worked for me: Gina@AGLS Process Serving. Email: Facebook: AGLS Process Michigan.

  6. *also just to clarify, I was not the 1st anonymous post. (maybe they could repost to identify themself like I did).

  7. It was me.. Bob Joiner
    Legal Investigative Group

  8. Thanks for your comments, Gina and Bob. Clearly this is a hot topic among process servers. Another guy in your line of work, Jeff Kerotkin, left a comment on my google+ post on this topic, and he left a link to his blog, which seems to stake out the contrarian view among process servers.

  9. Process servers will not be replaced by technology anytime soon, but process servers will soon be replaced by other process servers who use technology better. Adapt or become extinct...

    1. Well I guess time will tell on that as well Anonymous. To date, there have already been multiple lawsuits against many large "technically advanced" process serving companies by the DA's office and private entities (some of which have settled), alleging various violations and misconducts from robo signing, to falsified affidavits, to over charging of service fees, to sewer service / bad services, etc.,.

      The problem with the larger process serving companies that are using "better technology" is that it costs more money to buy and operate that technology, which is not required by the courts, and the costs are being passed on to the clients. Eventually law firms will see those increased numbers and realize that a $50 - $100 increase PER SERVICE to use "technology" driven process servers will not be justafiable, for most firms. Some law firms will lose clients due to the additional expenses. They may then see the light, if they're not dragged into one of the lawsuits for improper service or trickle down violations first.

      Law Firms will also begin to realize that the expensive "technology advanced" process serving companies are using the same out-of-state process servers that they can contact themselves directly through associations such as NAPPS (National Association of Professional Process Servers /, which has a directory to locate a process server by zip code, and is how most of them locate & subcontract the process servers.

      The other problem that is developing is that If the larger process serving company does not choose to sub-contract an experienced NAPPS member/process server to serve the papers, to save money, they then begin placing ads & hiring unexperienced people off the street, paying them low rates or an hourly wage and calling them process servers. Just to get the papers attempted and hopefully cross-your-fingers served. This has created tons of bad services, thrown out services, and tons of non-serves, that are being performed by people who don't know what they're doing and therefore the services are not actually being properly attempting. which has all prompted the lawsuits. So hopefully law firms will eventually see those numbers and instead od buying into it all will realize that a process serving company based in FL for example, that has "technology", only has the technology to moniter their inexperienced hourly process servers and cannot reasonably provide the same level of service outside of FL, as well as the process server who is actually located in the other state, can.

      Time will tell.

      Gina / AGLS Process Serving. Michigan.

  10. I see major flaws with email service. One, if I know that my company is going to be served via email (and I am required to form an email address for the purposes for service), then I just won't bother checking any emails sent to Second, it can still easily be erased, registered or not, by closing the entire email account down.

    I think email service is an option as an ALTERNATIVE means of service. Or as an addition to nail and mail service, perhaps we can start a nail,mail and email service (We'll call it "enemy" service, since most feel that process servers are the enemy? "NME")

    My company is working to be on the front line with alternative means of services, we agree that technology is a major factor in the future of process servers. Process servers play an integral part in the legal industry and attorneys should realize that and embrace it, rather than find ways to eliminate them. Process servers are INDEPENDENT and a neutral voice within the proceedings.

  11. Interesting comment, Adam. To respond a bit, my idea is that we change the law to require companies to check their email account-- in other words, to impute notice to them whether or not they do. So the business owner could decide not to check the account, or shut it down, but by doing so they'd just be inviting default judgments.

    Seems to the real question here is due process. For natural persons, you can make a pretty good case that personal service is required due process. I think the case will get less and less compelling as time goes on and everyone has a verified electronic identity (such as facebook or some equivalent). But I think the case is totally not compelling, right now, for business entities. I don't think it is unfair or unjust to require companies to have an monitor an electronic address for the service of process.

    It's also helpful, I think, to consider why we have process servers. In other words, why does the law require that process be served by third parties in the first place? The reason is that service is emotional and dangerous. As you say, process servers are independent and neutral, and this defuses somewhat the fraught confrontation that personal service requires. But my idea is to eliminate the necessity for the fraught confrontation altogether. If these encounters become unnecessary (and they will—it's just a matter of when) then the need for neutral parties to stand between plaintiff and defendant simply evaporates. Or, at the very least, the neutral third party becomes the operator of the electronic means of service.

  12. Bart, you bring up a few good ideas, but as a process server for the past 22yrs who serves everything from federal criminal subpoenas down to domestic restraining orders/or PPO's and small claims cases, it has been my experience that the "fraught confrontation" concern that you mention is a rare event, maybe twice a year, but when it does happen it happens more so with individuals than with business/corporate services, and as you've pointed out personal service on individuals is required due process. And we cant forget all of the recent federal rulings that "IP addresses are not people",(google it) so it may be a little longer than you think before these ideas are considered or even implemented.

    Gina/AGLS Process Michigan

  13. I personally think that process servers will become obsolete right around the time that attorneys, judges, court staff, defendants and plaintiffs can hold court from their respective livingrooms via Skype or other video conference calls. Until that point, which I don't see happening in my lifetime, full time professional process servers are needed as much as full time professional attorneys and court staff.

    I like your arguments though, they are thought provoking!


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