Licensing of Private Process Servers

Maryland Senate Bill 554, sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery) – would enact a licensing system for private process servers in Maryland, titled the Maryland Private Process Servers Act.

My first thought about this proposal was “Excellent.” My practice and those of my friends have been plagued by unreliable, even fraudulent, process service issues at moments. Most working lawyers have a story about bad process servers. Under Maryland Rules of Procedure, pretty much anyone over 18 can serve process, including persons convicted of heinous crimes.

My favorite such story is one process server who swore under penalty of perjury that he served the resident agent of the holding corporation for Hammerjacks, which used to be located in what’s now Tailgate City next to M & T Bank Stadium, at 900 S. Howard Street. Not shocking, except that the business had moved from that location a decade or so before; 900 S. Howard Street isn’t a bar but a paved parking lot for the Ravens. As is turns out, the resident agent was not only not at the old stadium parking lot mourning the relocation of Hammerjacks 15 blocks away downtown some years before, but had confirmed proof of travel to an out of state fishing trip including hotel reservations, flights, etc., on the date that this process server swore he served him. In a parking lot, where the bar once, you know, rocked on when I was in high school. Needless to say, service was justifiably vacated.

The proposal would make the State Police the arbiter of process service licenses, would exempt law firms and employees of law firms acting within a law firm’s regular practice in Maryland, and would establish insurance/bonding requirements.

The Mid-Atlantic Association of Professional Process Servers has urged a number of changes to the proposed legislation, including making DLLR the supervising agency as it is for many other occupational and business licenses.

Licensure would increase the cost to the customer, but would also get rid of some, maybe most, of the sorts of dirtbags who lie about their services of process as did the process server above in the Hammerjacks case. It would increase the overall access to civil justice by getting rid of some of the court-clogging follow-up procedures after bad service, such as some motions to vacate service. It would take away an “attractive nuisance” for the scamtastic. On the other hand, some of the tweaks suggested by MAAPPS seem to have merit too. This may be an example of a mostly good bill that through modest amendments can be improved.

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