A process server is a person who delivers a court order and/or documents that compel a defendant’s presence in court. A process server must actually hand these documents to the defendant in the case, and often says, “You have been served.” In instances when it is not possible to hand the documents to the defendant directly, the process server can give them to management at the defendant’s place of business, or to another adult resident (18 or older) in the defendant’s home. This person then becomes the agent of the defendant.
The process server cannot be a party to the particular case mentioned in the documents. The process server must also show proof that the documents were,in fact, served. This is typically accomplished with a notarized proof of service. In many states, a process server is also required to carry a specific license and in some cases, must have insurance.
What Documents Does a Process Server Deliver?
Process servers deliver a variety of legal documents, including Writs, Subpoenas to testify in court, a Summons to appear in court, and Formal Complaints. In addition to serving these documents, process servers can also assist with filing appropriate documents in court, retrieving documents for you, and helping you track down a defendant.
Do I Need a Process Server?
Whether or not you need a process server depends on your specific case and the laws governing your case in your state and municipality. In more serious cases, (that is, cases not considered a “Small claim”) when you are subpoenaing someone to appear in court, you may need a process server.
If you are not sure, contact your attorney or a local process-serving agency to determine your specific needs. Process servers are often well-versed in which cases require their services, and can help to point you in the right direction. Failing to use a process server when you need one can delay your case, or worse, your case could thrown out on procedural grounds.
The purpose of a process server is to make sure the defendant is notified, given the chance to come to court and offer a defense. The U.S. Constitution requires that no defendant be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law, and making sure a defendant is aware of the fact that he or she has to come to court is an important part of due process.
If the defendant is properly served and knows they are supposed to come to court and does not show up, the plaintiff can get a default judgment against the defendant (in other words, they can be declared the automatic winner). Thus, process servers perform the important function of protecting defendants’ rights.