Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School
Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration: A Series of Roundtable Discussions" - August, September, and December, 2009
The Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School conducted this state-by-state survey of process server provisions. In January 2009, a team of law students under the supervision of faculty supervisors undertook the survey as part of a collaboration with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The project explores the potential of process server education and training as one possible reform to improve industry practice. New York City, like many other jurisdictions, has experienced an explosion of consumer debt collection filings. Such cases nearly tripled since 2000 (Jim Dwyer, In Civil Court, One Nation, Under Debt, N.Y. Times, Oct. 10, 2008, at A19,) climbing to nearly 300,000 in 2008. (Justice Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, New York City Courts, Presentation to the Civil Court Committee of the New York City Bar (Mar. 16, 2009). Consumer law advocates estimate that over 98% of debtor-defendants are pro se. Debtor-defendants default in approximately 70% of cases. (Data provided by the New York City Civil Court, see also New York State Unified Court System, Court Statistics, available at http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/statistics.shtml.) The high default rate prompted the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to conduct a public hearing in June 2008. DCA has stepped up enforcement efforts and conducted a comprehensive examination of its regulatory oversight regime. The court system has also undertaken some measures to address the default rate and the New York Attorney General commenced an enforcement action against a process server company based on a pattern of “sewer service,” which led to the extraordinary step of filing suit to reopen 100,000 defaults. (Joel Stashenko, Service Concerns Prompt Bid to Reopen 100,000 Defaults, N.Y.L.J. (July 23, 2009), David B. Caruso, Court Papers Went Undelivered, Process Server Faces Charges, N.Y. L.J. (Apr. 15, 2009).) This state-by-state survey demonstrates that regulation of process servers varies greatly throughout the country. In some states, only law enforcement personnel may serve legal process, whereas in other states process can be served by any adult not a party to the action. Some states (and localities or judicial districts) require licensure, registration, and/or appointment, others do not. Additional provisions mandate education (training and/or testing), bond and/or insurance requirements, and fee guidelines. Some requirements are statutory and regulatory, whereas others are imposed by court rule. The research was conducted in June 2009 and does not reflect amendments and other developments, which may have taken place since them. We hope this compendium provides a helpful overview of legal requirements in connection with process servers for advocates, government officials, process server agencies and others involved in efforts to ensure that industry practices meet constitutional and legal standards and that vulnerable defendants, such as pro se debtors, receive the notice they are entitled to about actions and proceedings brought against them. ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS The City of New York created the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) in 1969, the first municipal agency in the country focusing on the rights and responsibilities of consumers and businesses. DCA conducts all its efforts with a single purpose: to ensure that consumers and businesses benefit from a fair and vibrant marketplace. DCA achieves its mission as follows: • Mediating and resolving consumer complaints. • Licensing fifty-seven categories of businesses and maintaining high standards of fairness and public accountability. • Enforcing the City’s landmark Consumer Protection Law and other related City and State laws. • Educating New Yorkers about their rights as consumers and responsibilities as businesses. • Litigating against rule-breaking businesses. In addition, DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment educates, empowers, and protects New Yorkers with low incomes. These combined efforts efficiently and effectively protect New York consumers. For more information about DCA, please visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/html/home/home.shtml. ABOUT THE FEERICK CENTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AT FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice seeks to develop concrete, achievable solutions to discrete problems of urban poverty. To accomplish this mandate, the Center combines: • the urgency of a social justice mission, • the creativity of a problem-solving center, and • the educational focus of a law school. In conducting its work, the Center engages in fact finding, policy research, legal analysis, convening, and consensus building. Substantively, the Center is committed to working in the areas of hunger/food policy, housing/homelessness, and asset building and consumer law. For more information about the Feerick Center or about this survey, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.