What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?
Brian White | November 1, 2020 | Personal Injury
When a person decides to take legal action against another—like filing a lawsuit after getting hurt in a car accident—they are required by law to notify the other party promptly. Each state has various rules and regulations that govern this process.
Some of those rules include:
- The person who delivers the papers to the defendant in the case needs to be over the age of 18.
- The person who delivers the papers cannot be involved in the case in any way.
- The person who delivers the papers needs to submit to the judge presiding over the case, proof that the papers were delivered.
In Texas, a process server needs to be certified by the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC). The commission has a Code of Ethics each and every process server needs to follow. In fact, if a process server fails to do so they could face disciplinary action by the Commission.
As you might guess, the defendant in a case isn’t going to be thrilled about being served with papers. For this reason, it can be challenging to track them down and actually get notification of the suit or divorce into their hands.
However, it is imperative that process servers in Texas be certified and adhere to the Code of Ethics outlined by the JBCC.
Process Server Code of Ethics
The state of Texas takes the process of serving legal documents very seriously. That is why the JBCC and the Code of Ethics are to be consulted and understood by all involved in the process of serving papers.
The Code of Ethics highlights the importance of professionalism and treating every person they serve with papers with respect. While this can be challenging if a person is trying to avoid service, it is crucial a process server do so.
Another value mentioned in the Code of Ethics is honesty. To that point, the Code calls for process servers to be truthful in all matters related to the serving of papers including returning documentation to the JBCC that papers were successfully delivered.
The Code of Ethics even goes beyond honesty and includes language to make sure process servers do not conduct their business in such a way as to exaggerate their authority. This particular rule especially applies to process servers who also work in law enforcement. Because it is common for police officers to work as process servers, the Code specifically notes that a server must not wear a badge while serving papers.
Finally, the Code of Ethics clearly states that process servers cannot:
- Falsely represent themselves by claiming they have a degree or title they do not hold
- Commit an unlawful act in the fulfillment of their duties
- Engage in any activity that is fraudulent, dishonest, or deceitful
While there is much more information related to being a process server in the Code of Ethics, these examples offer a good starting point for understanding what process servers can and cannot do in the state of Texas.
Process Servers and the Secretary of State
According to Texas law, the Secretary of State can also serve as a process agent. This means that if one party is unable to locate the other party they are bringing suit against, in some specific situations, they can serve the Secretary of State in their stead.
This option, however, is often only permitted in very narrow circumstances pertaining to suits brought against corporations and foreign entities. For most individuals, those dealing with lawsuits between other people or serving divorce papers, they will work with a certified process server. The process server will be required to follow the code of ethics as outlined above.