Service of process
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Template:CivilProcedure Service of process is the term given to legal notice of a court or administrative body's exercise of its jurisdiction over individuals who are the subject of proceedings or actions brought before such court, body or other tribunal.
Each jurisdiction has rules regarding the means of service of process. In some cases the law may require the summons to be served upon the person personally, or upon the person of someone of suitable age and discretion at the person's abode or place of business or employment. In some cases service of process may be effected through the mail as in some small claims court procedures. In exceptional cases, other forms of service may be authorized by procedural rules or court order, including service by publication when an individual cannot be located in a particular jurisdiction.
Proper service of process initially establishes personal jurisdiction of the court over the person served. If the defendant ignores further pleadings or fails to participate in the proceedings, then the court or administrative body may find the defendant in default and award relief to the claimant, petitioner or plaintiff.
In ancient times the service of a summons was considered a royal act that had serious consequences. It was a summons to come to the King's Court and to respond to the demand of a loyal subject. In ancient Persia, failure to respond to the King's summons meant a sentence of death. Today the penalties for ignoring a summons are usually money judgments that must be subsequently enforced.
Service of process in cases filed in the United States district courts is governed by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In England and Wales, the rules governing service of documents are contained with Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 .
Service on a defenant who lives in a country outside the jurisdiction of the Court must comply with special procedures prescribed under the Hague Service Convention if the recipient's country is signatory. Service on defendants in many South American countries and some other countries is effected through the Letter Rogatory process. Where a defendant's whereabouts are unknown, the Court may permit service by publication, usually in a newspaper.
 Process server
Some jurisdictions require or permit process to be served by a court official, such as a sheriff, marshal, constable or bailiff. There may be licensing requirements for private process servers as in New York City.
Other jurisdictions, such as Georgia, require a court order allowing a private person to serve process. In some places the parties themselves may effectuate service. In the countries which use Napoleonic legal codes (France, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) the task is performed by a huissier de justice (gerechtsdeurwaarder in Dutch). In those countries there are two different types of service — signification and notification. The huissier is only responsible for signification, the more formal type of service Template:Fn.
 Acceptance of service (United States)
As a substitute for personal service by a process server, many jurisdictions encourage voluntary acceptance of service. The summons and other documents are mailed to the party to be served together with a request to sign and return a form of acceptance of service, or acknowledgement of service. Acceptance of service means that the served party agrees to have received the complaint or petition without the need to engage a process server. Failure to accept service voluntarily means that the party to be served will be liable for the cost of effecting formal service.
 Personal service
Personal service is service of process directly to party named on the summons, complaint or petition. In most lawsuits, personal service is required to obtain jurisdiction.
In some instances, an agent for acceptance of service can substitute for personal service.
 Agent for acceptance of service
The agent for acceptance of service is person authorized to accept service on behalf of the served party. For example, many corporations are required to have an agent for acceptance of service.
Acceptance by an agent for acceptance of service is a form of substituted service.
 Substituted service
When a served party is unavailable, many jurisdictions allow for substituted service. Substituted service allows the process server to leave service documents with another responsible third party such as parents or employer. Substituted service often requires a serving party show that ordinary service is impracticable and that substituted service will reach the party and effect notice.
In addition, substituted service may be done through public notice followed by sending the documents by certified mail.
- Template:Fnb (pdf) Handbook of the Hague Service Convention — explains the difference between signification and notification in legal systems based on the Napoleonic Code