Research, lurk, hunt and strike. Whether you are an archbishop about to say mass, a taxi driver or a deadbeat attorney, if you have legal papers coming to you I will ensure you get them.
I take pride in finding people and serving them with legal process. My pulse races when I see the “Oh crud!”-look on someone’s face the second before I tell them they are served. After more good serves than Roger Federer, I still feel the adrenaline of the work.
Process servers are officers of the court, whether private investigators or sheriff’s marshals. The legal system would fall apart were it not for the court’s power to compel witnesses and defendants to appear to testify or to produce documents. It doesn’t matter if you live in Blackhawk or in East Oakland, no one is above the law.
Private investigators are exempt from having to register as process servers. Private investigators who are not registered process servers may serve all documents except bank levies and similar documents. (My rule of thumb is to use a registered process server if the document is to take money or property.) Private investigators cost more than process servers but usually are more dogged, resourceful and effective. Use a private eye when it absolutely, positively, has to get served.
If people were honorable I wouldn’t have a job. I try to be direct with those I need to serve but if they are being evasive it’s “game on.”
Several years ago I served former Archbishop of San Francisco, William Levada, just before he said his final mass before leaving permanently for Rome as the Vatican’s top-ranking American. The papers were in connection with sexual abuse lawsuits in Portland, where Levada had also been archbishop. He was a witness in that he knew about the priests involved and the diocese’s finances.
I had called his office for about three weeks prior to the mass, trying to do business discretely. There was no response. When I found him preparing for his final mass I told him that I would prefer to serve him now rather than interrupt mass. He grumbled. I told him that he was served and left the papers next to him. (For a legal serve, the person does not have to take possession of the papers. The factors are “awareness” and “proximity.”)
A Nigerian taxi driver once jumped me at his San Bruno apartment. He did not grasp the finer points of jurisprudence but he sure did grab me. Fearing he was armed with a knife, I countered with a bear-hug to pin his arms. A few seconds later I unclenched and ran for it. It taught me to never let my guard down.
A couple weeks ago I couldn’t find a witness in a wrongful death case. He had been served prior with deposition subpoenas but ignored them all. I had to serve contempt papers on the 6-foot, 280-pound bar bouncer and Raiders fan. I checked his name in family law court and saw that he was due for a court appearance. I zapped him in the court hallway. He looked like a wounded elk.
Everyone comes home. Holidays and Sunday evenings are good times to hunt. I looked for one guy for two months once before finding him Easter dinner at his parents’ house in Union City. A couple weeks ago I served a summons and complaint on a deadbeat attorney in Walnut Creek. He was using a mail drop but I learned his parents were locals and served him at their house.
I’ve never had to resort to disguises or do too many other pretexts. But as an old friend in the business warns those who might be dodging service, “Look out for little old ladies in track suits.”