Agency Subpoenas Seek Process Servers' GPS Records

, New York Law Journal

   |7 Comments

New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs has served more than 300 subpoenas on independent process servers seeking their global positioning system records, leading some process servers to complain that they're being unfairly targeted.

Katyusca Abreu, a spokeswoman for the department, confirmed that the subpoenas were issued in December as part of an ongoing investigation into process service in New York. The subpoenas had a return date of Jan. 13. She did not say what the city's next step would be in the investigation, only that the subpoenas were issued "to ensure they're keeping legally mandated GPS records to prevent sewer service and make sure that process servers are serving papers when and where they say they are."

"Sewer service" refers to failure to serve papers.

Lawyers in New York usually hire process servers through agencies, which in turn use independent contractors.

The consumer affairs department has been investigating the process server industry in 2008, concluding after public hearings that the largely self-regulated industry was not ensuring adequate service in many cases. It found that so-called sewer service was common, and that process servers were not keeping adequate records.

In response to those findings, the New York City Council passed Local Law 7 in 2010, requiring process servers to keep detailed records of where they serve papers and to use GPS tracking to confirm they appeared where they said they appeared. The GPS records are held by third-party companies.

Since that law was passed, the number of registered process servers in New York has been cut in half, from over 2,000 to just over 1,000.

Larry Yellon, president of the New York State Professional Process Servers Association, said that the new regulations are being enforced overzealously, effectively driving process servers out of business for technicalities.

For example, he said, a process server might be hit with heavy fines for omitting a ZIP code, or getting an address slightly wrong.

"Some [violations] might have been more serious than others, but some were frivolous, administrative, nothing drastic," he said. "They have repetitive fines. If a zip code is missing a dozen times, they fine them a dozen times."

What's being said

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    I believe the GPS law is ahead of it’s time and although it is great tool when it works, It is not proof that service has been made. GPS Technology just recently became available. And it is not yet accurate enough to be used as evidence as there are many places where signal is not available - as anyone knows who has ever had a call dropped in the city or lost signal because a building blocked out the satellite. Most of the fines the NYDCA is imposing are not for bad service but most often errors in record keeping as simple as using a ditto mark on a repetitive record or a transposition in a number. The NYDCA expects process server after getting out of a possible dangerous harrowing or uncomfortable service to make a digital record of the service and then a “contemporaneous” handwritten log. So here you are you just went in to make a service on three people at the same time at the same address. You have to serve the document to an angry recipient go outside and take picture of the address, never knowing if the guy is going to chase you into the street. Then while you are still possibly in a threatening situation, you are expected to handwrite in a log book 23 separate pieces of information. And each of these records three times without ditto marks in a log book in the space of a ruled page, and if you make a mistake you are to cross it out and write above it in that same space. The average process serve can serve up to 30 stops a day with sometimes as many 5 defendants on the same case; if you do the math we are talking about 150 or more handwritten entries a day with 23 different pieces of information that is 3450 entries, multiply that by the month or the year. If you make an error you get fined $500.00 for every single mistake in your log book even if it the same mistake. This results in fines in the thousands of dollars. And none of this has anything to do with bad or “sewer” service.So next the NYDCA, in language guaranteed to intimidate, fines the process server in the amounts of 6 figures, threatening to take away his livelihood, life savings, and his license and ruin his reputation but offers up a deal. We can make the fine come down to 1000 or less, if you sign this piece of piece agreeing to more regulations. That will show the world that the NYDCA are the good guys protecting the people and you Mr. Process Server are little piece of dog dodo.Why doesn’t the NYDCA be a little more transparent and explain exactly what these fine were on. If these settlement agreements were opened up, you will find very few of them were had anything to do with bad service and many were technicalities on handwritten records. This is just a scam for the people in NYDCA to make up a job for themselves and to keep fines coming into the city to justify their own salaries. But in truth it is blatant extortion and overuse of power by a money hungry, self-righteous, bureaucratic agency.

  • not available

    There are several reasons why the industry lost half of their process servers and stand to lose more.The most glaring, that the process servers were asked to learn a new technology overnight Some either couldn’t adjust to the new technology, or understand the unclear regulations clearly enough to take the hastily put together licensing exam that the NYDCA promulgated to enforce the new laws. Additionally or in combination with paying the higher fees; including the soft ware and hard required to stay in the industry; and the bonding fees, and deal with the heavy handed and intimidation and censorship tactics that the NYDCA uses as standard in their dealings with process servers, as if the industry is tainted. Unfortunately along with some incompetent servers we also lost many good diligent servers who had been serving process for years and knew the law better than the nincompoops at the NYDCA who are simply civil service and do not have any understanding that process Server are serving the public good.

  • not available

    Responsible Process servers always kept detailed records off who and where they served process.I am not denying that there was sewer service performed by unethical people. However, the investigation that the NYDCA refers to was based on testimony of people who we trying to deny service mostly people who had credit debt; and had a reason to be served. The immediate legal strategy lawyer’s use no matter the circumstance, in any case, is to claim that jurisdiction was not established by proper service. But if what the NYDCA claims is true, and If there was so much sewer service the law provides for traverse, hearings; so if the investigations show sewer service was so prevalent why wasn’t there also a rash of vacated judgments or overturns in these cases. Well obvoiusly because there was no sewer service in most of these cases. This is just another excuse for the NYDCA to find a reason for their blatant use of their power to bully an industry to pay fines and target a group of honest, hard working people trying to make a living.

  • not available

    The process servers in NYC are their own enemies. When they have a spokesman who himself appears to committed fraud you are not doing yourself any favors. DUH!

  • not available

    The NY Times was sued for libel because of that false 1999 story. That writer should be ashamed. Despicable to even mention it. The NY DCA has become another strong-arm branch of the City to increase revenue plain and simple. Forget the smoke and mirror tactics.

  • not available

    NYCDCA "licensing" and "enforcement" is a disguise for another Bloomberg administration-driven defacto revenue stream through outrageous fees and fines by unethical bureaucrats against process servers who are really not able to afford this abuse. Furthermore, NYCDCA with their bullying and coercion, has terrified and threatened for the most part, decent, hard-working, responsible people who earn modest incomes. NYCDCA has ruined the livelihoods of a number of these people while meddling in the judicial system, which really has nothing to do with "consumer affairs" and is actually "business-to-business". NYCDCA should go after the small handful of bad conduct firms---not torture everyone else with a sledgehammer

  • not available

    Same problems same people going back years. Where is the red herring in this story? http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/04/nyregion/what-happens-if-process-server-doesn-t-serve.html

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