Process Servers: On-Screen Portrayals vs. Real Life

An image of the iconic Hollywood sign

Hollywood is a glamorous world. Whether it’s the big screen or the silver one, Hollywood’s influence spreads far and wide across the globe. 

Studies show that children are strongly influenced by television. It’s often their primary source of information during their formative years, outside of school, and television depictions become the norm against which all other experiences are judged. There have been multiple instances of children growing up influenced by Hollywood and its starry-eyed portrayal of various careers such as doctors, lawyers, and even mechanics, only to enter the professional world and have all their expectations come crashing down.

Process servers, just like any other profession, have not been spared by Hollywood’s exaggerated portrayal. There exist many movies and TV shows that touch upon the inner workings of the process service world. Most of these productions often portray a life that is far from reality.

In some instances, it’s crucial to understand that the monotonous nature of most professions does not make for entertaining television or film. This dilemma results in dramatization, often with gratuitous liberties, and is precisely why most Hollywood productions showcase lawyers always amidst a trial or doctors in the operating theatre working strenuously to save a patient’s life in a critical state. Some dramatization is necessary and requires viewers to uphold an unavoidable suspension of disbelief. However, often the depicted picture is a far cry from reality. 

We, at Elite Process, function as a process service agency in New York. If you wish to serve someone court papers, our agency can aid you by providing you convenience in the process. This blog post is intended to provide a more realistic insight into the profession of a process server and highlight the contrast between on-screen portrayals and how we operate in the real world.

Shows And Movies Which Involve Process Servers

Serving Sara

Serving Sara is a 2002 movie starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley. Serving Sara is one of the few films where the main character is a process server. A romantic-comedy film, the process server occupation features heavily throughout the film, as Matthew Perry’s character serves a British socialite (Elizabeth Hurley) with divorce papers. This task leads to a series of events and mishaps throughout the film. 

This clip is a perfect illustration of how Hollywood dramatizes and exaggerates mundane, real-life situations. The process server follows standard procedure by asking her name and explaining that he has a divorce summons paper to deliver. However, everything else in this clip is not demonstrative of how process servers in the real world behave. Process servers do not typically enter your premises unless the recipient of the documents is bedridden and permission is obtained to enter the household.

Process Servers are trained to deal with uncomfortable situations or unpleasant individuals calmly. This clip from the movie demonstrates poor practices in the profession. 

All Worked Up

Arguably one of the most famous television shows chronicling process service workers, All Worked Up follows Byran Mcelderry as he serves notices and court documents to defendants all over New York. 

The following clip showcases another extreme that does not accurately reflect upon the profession of process servicing. Mcelderry forges his identity by disguising himself as a prospective client interested in a house tour, which is not indicative of how process servers conduct themselves. Mcelderry proceeds to chase the defendant, which is not how the procedure for process servicing works. 

If a defendant is evasive, process servers can perform a drop delivery. A drop delivery allows process servers to deliver documents by simply placing them in front of the defendant once their identity is established.

Getting served with court papers can be an emotional experience for many people. However, in this instance, the defendant starts by being verbally aggressive and becoming physically aggressive. Our professionals are trained to approach people with respect and calmness to avoid escalating situations to such an untenable degree. At Elite Process, we understand that being presented with court documents can be a stressful experience, and our servers are equipped specifically to deal with such situations.

New Girl

This clip is from a television sitcom and so must be taken with a grain of salt. Process servers do not typically approach and tell people that they have been served. Instead, they proceed calmly, introduce themselves and inform the defendants that they are carrying court documents meant for the defendants. Process servers also do not need to acquire verbal confirmation about the defendant’s identity if they are already sure of who they are. 

How Process Service Differs On Screen and In Real Life

In most instances, movies and TV shows fail to capture the essence of process service work accurately. Litigants often hire process servers to ensure that court papers are delivered accurately and on time. Process servers are trying to aid the defendant by protecting their legal rights and serving them due to notice appropriately. 

Some states, such as California, require process servers to be licensed, but that is not true for all the states in the United States. In New York, process servers are required by law to be certified within some regions of the state.

The job of process servers is two-fold. Their role involves presenting important documents timely and ensuring that the defendant’s fifth amendment rights are not violated. Serving process is officially required because the US constitution’s ‘due process clause does not allow courts to exhibit personal jurisdiction against defendants who have not been appropriately notified. 

A process server job is also not as dangerous as some TV shows or movies portray. Situations rarely get out of hand, and it is uncommon for a process server to come to harm potentially. Most defendants also understand that the process server only fulfills their task by providing them with the required notice. However, elusive defendants are more common. Process servers are considered valuable because they can help track down defendants who are tricky to find. 

Most states also require independent third parties aged 18 or above to be delivering the court papers to defendants.

Bad Practices In The Service Of Processing

There are numerous examples of bad practices being carried out in the world of process servicing. Some of these examples have also been illustrated by the clips mentioned above. Delivery of legal papers must be done professionally, time-sensitive, and accurately, which is why litigants often hire process servicing agencies. 

For a case to start, at least two separate documents must be presented to the defendant. These documents include a copy of the filed complaint and a court summons order. In divorce cases, a joint preliminary injunction is also served. The failure to provide these documents on time is considered a bad service.

Another case of bad service is papers being served to the defendant by the person filing a case against them. The only way for the defendant to receive documents from the person suing them is to sign a formal waiver. Similarly, legal papers being provided to someone other than the defendant is also considered bad practice. A written statement by the defendant allowing another individual to accept the documents on their behalf is the only way to entrust legal papers to someone else in their stead.

Serving papers to the defendant via mail is also not considered acceptable in most circumstances. Process servers will typically try to locate the defendant between 3-5 times before resorting to other means to contact them. The legislature also states that the process servers must attempt to contact the defendant on separate days and times. Approaching a defendant with legal papers on a Sunday or public holidays is also considered an example of dismal service and may render it void.

Suppose a process server is unable to present legal papers to the defendant personally. In that case, they must sign an affidavit of due diligence, after which an alternate method of contacting the defendant can be employed.

Hollywood’s Reality

As evidenced, Hollywood’s portrayal isn’t always accurate. In most of these clips, the reality of what it means to be a process server is distorted. Process servers lead lives that involve conducting due diligence and inspection. They’re required to track down elusive clients. Many process service agencies also offer document filing and electronic filing, which may not be considered glitzy enough for Hollywood to represent on screen. The occupation of a process server is very different and much more grounded and mundane compared to how Hollywood depicts it.

Serving Someone Court Papers In New York

If you are looking for a professional process server agency in New York, we can assist you. Elite Process is a same-day process serving agency based in Whitestone, New York. Our service parameters cater to New York’s five boroughs from Queens, to Brooklyn, to The Bronx. Our team of process servers is highly qualified and professional. Contact us for all your process service needs.

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