Coronavirus / COVID-19 Pandemic Edition
Are process servers considered "essential businesses"?
The TxAPPS Board reached out to the JBCC on Thursday, March 19, 2020, in response to much questioning and discussion among process servers around Texas and Nationwide regarding whether or not process serving is considered an "Essential Business" during these times when States and Counties have implemented various "Shelter-in-Place" / "Stay-Home" orders in effort to slow the spread of the virus causing the COVID-19 illness.
The JBCC provided links that they recommend process servers following during this time for information and guidelines provided by the JBCC and/or the State, then recommended that we check the county courts websites for local orders issued by those courts.
Unfortunately, to this date, TxAPPS has yet to locate any specific answer to this question for Texas Process Servers.
As a process server, this raises obvious questions!
So, we reached out to the JBCC again to ask for more guidance because the OCA is recommended service by means which the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure don't clearly define at this time, to see if new guidelines are being worked out. Again, the JBCC advised that we refer to the courts about whether or not they are conducting business and require serving process for the courts, and whether they are using email as an alternative means of service.
So, should I be serving papers during this pandemic crisis?
The City of San Antonio's Assistant Attorney reportedly clarified exempt legal services from the "Stay Home, Work Safe" order in Bexar County. She wrote to legal service providers: "Exempted businesses from the requirement to stay home include legal services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities. Legally mandated activities will depend on the work of a legal service provider and may include compliance with legal deadlines, required substantive work, and client needs, including but not limited to probate, criminal and family law needs. Further, exempted businesses, including legal services, may continue in support of any other exempted business listed including but not limited to serving vulnerable populations. If an individual serves or operates an exempted business or activity, it may be conducted as long as social distancing of at least six feet is maintained during these activities". She seems to indicate that it is okay to continue serving.
As an associate member of the New York State Association, I received an email advising that New York State's Empire State Development office advised that their legal team deemed that Process Servers/Agencies are "Essential Businesses" and they "can work". A copy of the email NYSPPSA sent out to its members can be viewed by clicking here.
But really... should I be serving papers?
As a group, our TxAPPS Board has come to this conclusion. Process servers can be considered essential businesses, absolutely. The rules vary county by county, so it's very difficult to say what we should or shouldn't be serving. I.e., there shouldn't be any new mortgage foreclosure or eviction cases being filed right now. However, process servers regularly serve protective orders and/or temporary restraining orders, which are considered emergency matters that need to be served regardless of the current crisis. It's certainly okay for a process server to deliver process in those cases involving emergency proceedings. Additionally, there are still cases progressing because this crisis has not affected all courts across the State and Nation; not everyone is under these "Shelter-in-Place" orders.
As a business owner or self employed person, you reserve the right to decide if you are serving and what you are serving... as well as a how many days you are willing to be out there exposing yourself. Several of our Board Members fall into the higher-risk group, or take care of someone in that higher-risk group. Some of us are not serving, observing the Shelter-in-Place orders to the fullest. Some of us are only serving emergency matters at this time, and have modified our practices to be more compliant with the Shelter-in-Place orders by doing things like minimizing trips to the courthouse, minimizing trips to businesses where we deliver multiple services, minimizing contacts with our servers to once-a-week drop off and pick up and notaries rather than every 2-3 days. If the State is recommending to the courts that they should implement "Email Service and Notice whenever feasible", they are certainly not pushing process servers out to the door to continue business as usual.
Social distancing is difficult in the profession of process serving. We absolutely recommend that all process servers who decide to be out there service follow the CDC's guidelines for social distancing and remain six feet away from those you encounter.
Most importantly, express to your clients the changes you have implemented. If you are business as usual, there may be nothing to communicate. But, if you normally go out to serve 5 days a week and cut that back to 2 days a week during this time, let your clients know when you receive a request that the standard turn-around time they are custom to, might be delayed due to your effort to comply as much as possible with the local orders.
From our TxAPPS family to yours, we pray for those directly affected by this horrible virus and for the continued protection of those we love.
-TxAPPS Board of Directors
ServeNow has compiled a great number of resources for process servers. Their page "COVID-19 Impacts on the Process Serving Industry" is full of useful links, tips, and State by State resources and announcements related to service of process.
ServeNow is also hosting a "Nationwide Process Server Meeting" to discuss staying safe and staying in business during this pandemic. The meeting will be Tuesday, March 31 at 11:00 AM CST.
CLICK HERE to visit the page and register to be part of this meeting.
The JBCC recommends that process servers keep watch on these pages, as well as information provided at the county level, to be apprised of new developments.
NAPPS has cancelled their Annual Conference, which was scheduled April 30 - May 2, 2020 in Las Vegas, NV. The next Annual Conference for NAPPS will be in San Antonio, Texas in 2021.
The NAPPS Board of Directors also voted to extend the deadline for 2020 membership renewals through August 31, 2020 in effort to help members in such a difficult time.
2020 Texas Process Servers' Expo & Job Fair was a success!
The first ever Texas Process Servers' Expo & Job Fair was determined to be a huge success by exhibitors and attendees alike! The doors opened at 9 AM with process servers waiting to enter the vendor hall, which held 29 exhibitor booths. A number of exhibitors raved about attendance; advising by 11:30 AM that they were out of handouts, promotional items, and/or applications. As our keynote speakers took the stage midday, the room was packed with process servers eagerly engaging with questions and comments. The afternoon educational sessions were also well attended. Nearly 200 process servers visited with us that day. Exhibitors, educators, and attendees all asked and encouraged TxAPPS to continue the Texas Process Servers' Expo & Job Fair as a regular event for process servers in Texas.
TxAPPS resident photographer, Scott Thomas, took photos all through the day. Photo album from the EXPO can be viewed on our website.
Teleconference Board Meeting
April 16, 2020
All TxAPPS members are invited to call in to listen and/or participate. There is much to discuss, including the fate of TxAPPS Annual Members Meeting for 2020 and 2 director vacancies on the Board of Directors.
In preparation for the Texas Process Servers' Expo & Job Fair, TxAPPS had a professional review our logo and enhance it to make it more versatile for printing on banners, table toppers, and other promotional items. We'd love get your feedback on the changes made to the logo emailed to email@example.com.
TxAPPS Board of Directors extends the biggest Texas Thank You to those who helped with, supported, and participated in the first ever Texas Process Servers' Expo & Job Fair!
If you missed it, we encourage you to reach out to the exhibitors via our Useful Links page, to get first-hand information about all the great products and services that specifically cater to the profession of process serving.