One of the most integral aspects of legal administration involves the distribution of important documents or notices that initiate legal action and court proceedings. Otherwise known as Process Service, this particular field of the legal industry deals in providing potential witnesses with documentation of a proceeding that requires an appearance in court, an appearance for a deposition, a subpoena of records, or any other legal appointment requiring witness testimony.
Presently, the distribution of subpoenas often calls on process servers to make in-person visits to those being served; doing so usually helps firms and government agencies ensure that subpoenas are distributed effectively, as digital distribution still leaves substantial room for miscommunication and/or misplacement of important documentation. Despite the favorable efficiency of in-person serving, firms and government agencies are finding that, in some cases, even this method has its shortcomings. The issue: If a witness denies ever receiving a subpoena, how can process servers prove that a witness was actually served?
Prior to the advent of body cameras, which have recently become a controversial yet useful technical aid in the legal field, process servers often faced limitations in dealing with witnesses who deny the legitimacy of a subpoena. In some cases, witnesses being served may question whether or not the subpoena is coming from a legitimate source or simply ignore the documentation requesting their testimony. When following up on distributed subpoenas, government agencies find that these individuals usually find fault with the process of serving; in most cases, these witnesses contend that they were either never contacted by the government agency or that necessary documentation was never received.
As a result, these shortcomings have already captured the attention of government officials in states like Illinois, where process servers may soon be required to wear body cameras when serving potential witnesses. At the beginning of 2016, the State of Illinois proposed Bill HB3627, which if passed would require process servers operating in cities with populations of at least 3 million to wear body cameras when serving. Proponents of the bill hope to use body- cam recordings both as a way to create evidence that an individual has been served and for the protection of the process server in the event that a witness becomes violent or attempts to compromise the delivery of a subpoena.
In addition to using technology in the field, process servers have also begun to explore the potential of social media as a supplement to in-person and/or mailed servings. A Texas bill proposed just last February would allow witnesses to be served with subpoenas over social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, if passed. As social media continues to become the preferred method of communication amongst the general public, proponents of this bill hope to build a clearer path of communication between government agencies and citizens being served.
Both video recording and social media afford the opportunity to create digital records of services that are susceptible to hearsay. In other words, with the necessary legislation, government agencies would be free to create a database comprised not just of legal documents, but also legal procedures and services that would otherwise go unverified. These modifications, while still in their early stages, opt to address a world that is everchanging and one that is in some ways becoming less receptive to in-person or paper-based communication.