What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?
When one person decides to sue another after a car accident or slip and fall in the state of Texas, they are required by law to notify the person they are suing as soon as possible. The notification also has to be done in a particular way and meet specific standards. In fact, Texas has very clear rules and guidelines that govern the process of serving papers.
For example, in Texas, in order to legally serve papers a person has to be certified. The entity that is charged with making sure process servers are certified and that all other rules and regulations are followed is the Judicial Branch Certification Commission. This advisory board is required by law to consist of at least five members who are appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas.
As you can see, the state of Texas takes the role of process serving very seriously. For those who are process servers, a Code of Ethics dictates what actions are permissible and clearly defines those that are not.
To better understand what a process server can (and cannot do) to serve papers, looking at the Code of Ethics more closely is helpful.
Certified Process Servers and the Code of Ethics
For starters, the Code of Ethics highlights the importance of professionalism and honesty. Because getting notice of a lawsuit into the hands of individuals who might not want to receive it can be difficult, a real temptation exists for process servers to complete their task via dishonest means.
To this point, the Code of Ethics clearly explains that a process server cannot exaggerate their authority when serving papers. This includes wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer or showing the badge of a law enforcement officer. Because it is common for police officers to also work as process servers, this rule ensures that defendants won’t feel they are being coerced by police to take the documents.
The Code of Ethics also clearly states that process servers cannot have an interest in the lawsuit for which they are serving papers. This includes being a party to anyone involved in the suit or being employed by a law firm that is serving the papers.
Finally, the Code of Ethics lists that a process server cannot:
- Engage in any criminal activity
- Including not violating any laws while performing their role as a process server
- Act in a way that is dishonest, deceitful, or fraudulent
Other rules included in the Code of Ethics require process servers to return proof of service in a timely manner and make sure all such proof is truthful.
Return of Proof of Service
After a process server has served the legal notices they were tasked with serving, they are required to report the service accurately to the judge presiding over the case. The Code of Ethics clearly spells out that all reports must be free of false information or anything that is even remotely misleading.
If a process server is found to have misrepresented themselves or what really took place on their proof of service, they could be suspended and even found guilty of perjury. Furthermore, if a process server witnesses or knows of any violations of the Code of Ethics committed by another process server, they are required to report it promptly.
The Secretary of State as a Process Agent
One final piece of information about papers being served that might be worth mentioning is the fact that in some cases the Texas Secretary of State can serve as a process agent. What this means is that in the event a company or other entity (often a foreign one) cannot be found to serve papers to, a process server can serve the Secretary of State in their stead.
While this will most likely not be what happens in most civil matters between individuals or even between an individual and an active company, it does happen and process servers are still required to follow the Code of Ethics. The process for serving the Secretary of State is outlined on the Secretary of State’s website.