“Sewer service” and civil defendants

by Walter Olson on April 19, 2009

If allegations by New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo are true, one of the most fundamental elements of due process for civil defendants — notice of a pending legal action through service of process — simply gets ignored in thousands of instances. “Sewer service” was a major concern of court reformers in the 1960s; it sounds as if the problem may never actually have gone away. [Newsday, Popehat]

{ 3 comments }

1 VMS 04.19.09 at 4:26 pm

Gee whiz! It’s about time someone woke up concerning sewer service and actually did something about it. Sewer service seems to be the norm and it has been going on for years. Many process serving firms are committing criminal fraud other than the one that Cuomo has accused. It got to the point where certain courts such as NYC housing court send out post cards to the defendant advising them that they have a court apearance, and then have a line in court for people that received post cards but no legal papers.

Nobody seemed to care until AG Cuomo decided to do something about it.
I have a client in a real estate partition action that was sewer served and a default judgment was entered. Realizing that something was amiss by looking at the squiggles masquerading as signatures on the affidavit of service filed with the court. I did some investigation and pulled the Notary’s signature cards from the NY Secretary of State under New York’s freedom of information law. All three signature cards (the original and the two renewals) bore different person’s signatures and all were different from the squiggle on the affidavit of service.

At that time, the judge didn’t seem to care because according to him the property had to be partitioned anyway. The Secretary of State didn’t care that they licensed a Notary Public that was committing fraud on both them (by having another sign the Notary Public application and/or renewals) and on the courts by “lending” their Notary license and stamp to a secretary working for the process server to notarize a first squiggle (allegedly of the prcess server) with a second squiggle (allegedly of the Notary) using the Notary’s name and license number.

In another unrelated case, a friend of mine received a housing court notice (post card), but never received papers. She is an attorney. She pulled the affidavit of service from the court file. I thought it strange that the Notary Public was qualified in a county very distant from the place where process was allegedly served.

Her husband decided to drive to the Notary’s address to investigate. On the Notary’s porch were sacks of pre-signed affidavits of service for the Notary to notarize. I guess that Notary did not administer the oath to each process server and personally witness each signing in her presence.

Other states (e.g. Connecticut) circumvent this type of wholesale fraud by requiring all service to be done by the State Marshal, and some allow service by both Certified Mail RRR and regular mail.

http://www.oag.state.ny.us/media_center/2009/apr/apr14a_09.html

Thanks for publicizing this. I now have the names of specific Assistant AGs to contact on Monday.

2 Bill Poser 04.19.09 at 5:51 pm

I wonder if the process server who claims to have driven over 10,000 miles in 24 hours could be prosecuted for reckless driving? That comes to an average speed of over 416 miles per hour!

3 SmartGuy 04.20.09 at 2:26 am

Ten years ago, I spent 15 minutes behind bars secondary to a Long Island sewer service. The process server claimed I had not been in my place of work on three occasions when I was open for business with numerous witnesses and a busy appointment book to prove where I was. I ended up in contempt of court in a hearing I had religiously attended with my attorney on every other occasion, before and after.

These fake process servers are a chronic unindicted criminal enterprise on Long Island for many years. Kudos to Mr. Cuomo for indicting one of these many felons.

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