Since serving your complaint upon your prospective defendants is a task usually assigned to a professional − the loathsome process server whose reflexive action upon serving the complaint (“You’ve been served!”) will often be followed by a “Hey this is not my fault, I’m just a working bloke doing a job” component lest he get the shit kicked out of him − I read this article in the Times with interest. Because who knew that the rules for process servers have changed because some of them haven’t actually been, um, serving?
It is one of the basic elements of law: When you are sued, you have to be notified so that you can appear in court to defend yourself.
But New Yorkers were not always receiving the court papers, even though process servers were signing affidavits swearing that they had properly delivered them.
The problem — known as sewer service, for the process servers’ metaphorically dumping the papers in sewers — led to an amendment of a city law regulating process servers and the introduction of a set of rules based on that law by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
A federal civil rights lawsuit that challenged the authority of the city and the Department of Consumer Affairs to enact such rules was dismissed this week by Judge Denise L. Cote of Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The city’s administrative code and its charter specifically give the Department of Consumer Affairs a way to remedy violations administratively, the judge found. The lawsuit challenging the department’s authority was filed by the New York State Professional Process Servers Association.
The city has claimed victory, but says it still has work to do. Consumer Affairs still receives about 40 complaints a year from consumer and legal advocates that papers were not served; officials there say this represents just a fraction of the problem, because few consumers know to report such cases.
Well, yeah. How can you report that a process server failed to serve you if you weren’t served? Hm.
Although I really like the term “sewer service.”