Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mom's Soapbox - Service of Process

(The following is written by my mom who is a professional process manager and private investigator specializing in "due process")

Perjury is a crime punishable by fine, imprisonment or both. Falsifying or forging proofs "under penalty of perjury" or "under oath" is actually a widespread practice which we've come to find out via many of our process servers as they tell stories about other companies they work for. The following relates primarily to California services:

1) Servers sign blank pieces of paper that a proof is overlaid upon, and that's what's filed with the court. The idea is that it's an original signature, and the hope is that the typist doesn't make an error in the proof.

2) The server is called to testify in court, usually in Unlawful Detainer actions, and the server is unable to attend, so the "agency" sends someone else to pretend they're the actual server. According to one man, this happened recently at last three times that he knows of, since he was the one who served the papers but no one told him of the court appearance until after the fact, presumably because the agency hadn't paid him for a while.

3) Servers are asked to sign an "authorization" or so-called "power of attorney" that allows the agency to sign their names to the completed proof. Another large agency recently asked us and our servers to sign such a document so that they wouldn't have to bother us with signing originals. We told them that there was no way that we (or any of our servers) would do such a thing. We still get their work and send them a report, but we've yet to see a proof come back for signature.

4) Just last week we were told that another agency had one person in their office that signed ALL the proofs with the "signature" of the server in order to expedite the process of getting the proofs filed at court.

5) Servers are being told that the proofs won't be questioned because, as registered process servers, their word is as good as the sheriff, and it's up to the servee to prove they weren't served. A twist on the truth to the detriment of the meaning of "due process", in our opinion.

6) Servers will "share" registration numbers because, we're told, "no one ever really checks" to see if the number is current or actually belongs to the person signing the proof.

At RASCAL we don't agree with or participate in the above deceptions. Some other servers tend to scoff at our attention to fact and detail; others will sneer at our prices saying they can get the service done for less. If one cuts out the need for accurate proofs requiring actual signatures on them, we can see where the costs might be less, but the possible repercussions would have the plaintiff's toes curl.

Our investigative branch, RASCAL's Research & Location, specializes in Service of Process, as in locating defendants and witnesses for service AND in dissecting and aiding in correcting judgments based on erroneous or falsely signed declarations of service. We work for both judgment creditors and debtors. One of the FIRST things we check is that the registration number belongs to the person who signed the proof and that it was valid AT THE TIME of service.

Most recently we were hired by a Judgment Creditor (JC) who had obtained a default judgment based on what we found to be a bad service. He had also recorded a defective abstract against an individual that was not a party to the action and the JC was in the extremely precarious position of being successfully sued for damages by both the debtor (not served) and the wrongly named individual. The court, on it's own motion, has amended the abstract and arranged for it to replace the incorrect one with the county clerk; the defendant/judgment debtor is being served with an Order to Appear for Examination and he will either appear or have the opportunity to contest the original judgment.

The Constitutional concept of "Due Process of Law" is taking a beating lately, especially due to the astronomical jump in foreclosure and collection actions. A lot of unemployed individuals are becoming "process servers" in California because it's so darn easy: $50.00 for a bond, $135 (give or take) to register and record the bond, and maybe another $25 for fingerprints. If the applicant has no felony convictions, he's a "Registered Process Server". It's getting really hard to tell the difference between a professional, knowledgeable process server and a freshly sprouted one who's biding his time until he can find "a real job".

Thank you.

And thank you, Mary-Margaret, for allowing me to write a page in your diary that, hopefully, will provide some thought-provoking facts about some questionable practices in our industry.

Michele Dawn
Riverside County Registered Process Server #117
California Licensed Investigator #24790

PS - My mom is a very good lady who really tries to help people, so I don't mind sharing my diary with her once in a while. (ahem?...."Once in a while"??? Get it, Mom??) Love, MMOB

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