Monday, August 28, 2017
Process servers are well aware of professional complications including assault or evasive defendants. But those being served can also find themselves in problematic situations. For example, there was a recent case in Knox County, Tennessee, where a judge increased restrictions on local process servers due to disturbance complaints.
On July 25, 2017, Judge Chuck Cerny signed an order stopping private process servers from serving papers and requiring that they redirect all jobs to the local sheriff’s office. The order stems from a recent event in which an unidentified process server attempted to serve papers late at night and harassed individuals while doing so. The judge’s order notes that the process server was from out of state and not approved to work in Tennessee. While this particular event was the catalyst, the action to halt private process servers from serving has been growing from an accumulation of issues regarding badly behaved process servers.
The court plans to eventually allow private process servers to continue to serve, acknowledging that most process servers effectuate service professionally. However, moving forward, they must be approved through a legal procedure before serving papers. This approval procedure conflicts with Tennessee’s current laws that only require a person to be older than 18 and not a party to the case in order to serve legal documents. In the meantime, all process serving jobs are being redirected to the sheriff’s office, which may impact cases in Knox County. Residents and lawyers may experience slower service and delayed court dates due to the increased demand and limited officers.
A process server’s poor judgment was ultimately the source of this court order. Due to this incident, professional process servers should be reminded that their actions affect the perception of the industry as a whole. Requiring a process serving license in Tennessee may help reduce the number of unqualified or misbehaving servers, which can result in an improvement in the industry’s reputation. When Tennessee process servers repute to have a more professional atmosphere, people will feel more at ease with legal developments and accepting papers. For process servers to avoid issues, it is best that they follow the state’s rules and regulations and serve papers with consideration.
Remember that promoting legislature, networks, and associations helps legitimize the process serving industry. Our industry should focus to better public perception of process servers through increased professionalism and awareness. In the end, we want to remind the public that service of process is an essential function of the legal system, not a threat to their well being. Hopefully, in the future, we can avoid complications like the current situation in Knox County.
While licensing and regulations can be helpful to legitimize the process serving industry, there should be an established plan to redirect how service of process is effectuated. If the state of Tennessee considers regulation, passing legislation with a set procedure could help establish a smooth transition for process servers without disrupting their business.
Currently, nine states require licensing to become a process server. Due to the Knox County order, this may spur Tennessee to reconsider its statewide licensing. What do you think? Should more states consider licensing requirements or are there benefits to less regulation?