COVID is Accelerating the Inevitable Adoption of Digital Service of Process
Posted September 9, 2020 in Process Service
This blog was submitted by a CALSPro Vendor member. Vendor members are entitled to present up to four blogs per year as a benefit of their membership. The comments below do not necessarily represent the position of CALSPro or its members.
During this time when the courts, government, and private sector are attempting as much as possible to limit person-to-person contact, electronic service (or “eService”) has come up as an alternative method of service. eService, as well as allowing the transfer of documents completely digitally (digital service of process, or DSOP), could speed up the California judicial system which often finds itself bottlenecked with cases. But the exploration of eService as an option leaves many process servers concerned that they will be displaced as some service events go digital.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. Using their expertise and new process serving software tools available to them through ServeManager, legal support providers can remain a relevant and active participant in ensuring parties of their due process rights.
In California, the conversation surrounding eService is particularly relevant considering emergency rule #12. On April 17th of the year, the Judicial Council approved the temporary rule which mandates electronic service of documents in most civil cases. This order is only for secondary services and not primary jurisdictional documents, such as summons and complaints. You can find more information about the rule and the actions of the CALSPro lobbyist to protect California process servers on the CALSPro blog.
Also worth noting is Senate Bill 1146, which would require a party represented by counsel who has appeared in an action or proceeding to accept electronic service of a notice or document that may be served by mail, express mail, overnight delivery, or facsimile transmission. The bill would require a party represented by counsel, upon the request of any party who has appeared in an action or proceeding and who provides an electronic service address, to electronically serve the requesting party with any notice or document that may be served by mail, express mail, overnight delivery, or facsimile transmission.
What does this mean for process servers?
While this does suggest a temporary change in the way service is performed, it doesn’t eliminate the need for in-person service. It is still the most reliable way to serve documents and remains the preferred method of service. However, there are definite advantages to learning how digital service of process works especially if this trend becomes more popularized and widely used. Namely, process servers can add it as an additional service method in order to appeal to more clients.
Industry veteran and owner and operator of FileServeX, Jeff Karotkin, feels that the complexity associated with physical service of process during this pandemic has shown the legal support industry that DSOP can be a viable and lawful alternative.
“The pressure on us, our customers, and recipients to embrace technology and operational efficiencies are too high to ignore. As a result, the existing physical model may have to change to meet today’s challenges,” Karotkin said.
“Process Servers are not immune to the rapidly changing legal technology landscape. I believe that the service of process needs to be reimagined if process servers are going to remain relevant.”
ServeManager’s Digital Service of Process Solution
ServeManager strives to provide process servers with the tools they need to succeed and stay relevant in the industry. Their digital service of process (DSOP) tool is part of this mission. It was created to keep process servers as a vital part of due process while also enabling electronic service of process.
“With hundreds digital serves having already been initiated through our eService featureset, in the three months that it’s been available to a limited user base, it’s clear that the need for this technology goes beyond the occasional allowance by a court,” said ServeManager CTO, Trent Carlyle.
“Our customers are telling us that record facilities, corporations, universities, government agencies, and occasionally private parties are requesting that documents be emailed to reduce exposure. We built in these features as a direct response to the pandemic, and as a way to keep our customers serving papers as entities and the legal system change the way they operate now, and during other inevitable disruptions in the legal system,” Carlyle added.
Irrefutably Better Than Email
Still in beta mode, the ServeManager DSOP / eService feature allows process servers to:
- send notification of service documents
- see when that notification is viewed
- see whether the recipient waives the physical service method
- and see when the sent documents are downloaded by the recipient.
This method is significantly more reliable than email because it is secure and you can guarantee to your clients that the documents were successfully sent, received, and downloaded.
For the process server, it feels easier than sending an email. In keeping with CALSPro’s Best Practices for Service of Process, the ServeManger DSOP tool is intended for use by consenting parties and requires the recipient to formally acknowledge receipt and specifically waive the physical service method.
See more about how this feature works in the video below.
Digital Requests for Records Retrieval
Medical providers are on the front lines in fighting COVID-19 and are trying to balance keeping their patients and staff safe, along with their obligation to produce medical records as required by law. There have been a significant number of medical facilities over the last several months that have restricted access to their office locations, leaving process servers and record retrievers (professional photocopiers) in California with the options of either mailing, faxing, or electronically submitting their requests.
“In these instances, we have started to use ServeManager’s digital SOP feature, and we have found it to be very useful,” said Bosco Legal CEO, Jeremiah Jones.
Jones added, “The electronic copy is cleaner than a faxed copy and it reaches the recipient far sooner than sending the documents through the mail. Documents that are electronically served through ServeManager have an electronic trail that shows they have been received and downloaded by the recipient, and the custodian has the ability to re-access the documents if they ever need to review or download them a second time.”
Please visit ServeManager’s Digital Service of Process solution post to learn more about this evolving set of features for legal support professionals.
As a reminder, in addition to a 14-day trial, CALSPro members receive an exclusive member benefit of a $50 credit toward any new ServeManager accounts and the association will receive a $50 donation for each new subscribing account as well.