NCAPPS President Kimberly Hamilton and Vice President of Legal, Jennifer McCracken attended a meeting regarding the issue of allowing private process servers to serve summary of ejections. Below is an overview of the meeting on 01/12/2015.
By VP, Jennifer McCracken
Colleen Kochanek wanted the objective of the meeting to be a discussion on the use of private process servers to serve summary judgment notices (postings included) and personal service of money owed. Ms. Kochanek stated there is not any current draft language yet regarding new legislation. She wanted all parties involved in the process of evictions to be present in order to have a voice.
The main issue brought up by Colleen Kochanek is that landlords want the option of using private process servers instead of just the Sheriff’s Department for Summary of Ejectment and Money Owed. The issue was brought up that there are counties that are not getting the summary judgment for eviction served within 5 days. When the summons and complaint for eviction is filed, a court date is scheduled for 7 business days (it does not include weekends) from the date of filing (NC statute 42.29). The Sheriff has 5 days to serve/post giving the tenant at least 2 days notice of the hearing. The second issue is that there are counties that disregard the law of setting a court date in 7 days and move it out to two weeks. The possible reasons this happens is lack of court room/docket space and that the Sheriff’s are not serving in a timely manner. This poses a financial burden on the Landlord because every day the tenant remains in the unit the tenant loses rent. The larger counties, 2 specifically mentioned were Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties were pointed out as not serving the judgment within the 5 days and not having the 7 day court date set. The representative for the Clerk’s office stated they receive volumes of cases that need to be filed after the tenth of every month. If they all come in at once there is no physical way to schedule all court dates seven days from the filing due to lack of space and resources in the court rooms. The clerks stated there can be delays in filing large case loads when the cases are going to the court house at the end of a business day. The 7 day court date is not set until the clerks have actually filed the case. The cases may take 24 hours to get into the system. Colleen Kochanek would like to see the summary judgment served personally instead posted if possible in order to start the process of landlords being able to recover their money sooner than later. Eddie Cladwell of the Sheriff’s Association and Bill Rowe of the NC Justice center appose private process servers because there is no certification or authority overseeing private process servers. Bill Rowe wanted to know that what qualifies a process server and how are they accountable? He said the Sheriff Departments have to be accountable for their mistakes. There were comments from Bill Rowe that serving summary ejectments can be very emotional for the tenants and possibly dangerous for the process server. Eddie Caldwell stated the other issues involve what process servers wear, safety, security and their veracity. Eddie Caldwell and Bill Rowe also commented that they would like to see process servers governed and held accountable prior to seeing them handle this type of service of process.
Possible Actions and Solutions
The Sheriff’s Association stated that they needed specifics as to which counties so they can address the issues with both the Sheriff’s departments and the clerks of court. Eddie Caldwell recommended a case study by taking a high volume landlord in the problem counties and following the process of an eviction from the landlord to the clerk to sheriff to see exactly where the improvement needs to addressed. Both Cady Thomas and Colleen Kochanek agreed to work with Mr. Caldwell on this case study. Cady Thomas of the NC Association of Realtors stated she is open to suggestions for best practices for landlords that would help expedite the process. She stated she would send notice out to land lords to consider the amount of case filings they are sending out and the time of day they are being brought to the court house. It was agreed that volume and case flow need to be addressed within the court system. There is an apparent issue with the process of filing and coordinating a court date with court rooms that can handle the volume of cases that need to be heard. There were no specific facts showing the Sheriff department was not serving or posting the first filing in a timely manner. The landlords that do want to collect on money seem to have the most interest in a private process server assisting with the case load and obtaining personal service hopefully prior to the tenant vacating the property. Jennifer McCracken and Kimberly Hamilton both spoke concerning NCAPPS and that it promotes professionalism, training and that it is currently working on a certification program. The point was brought up that Rule 4 already allows private process servers to serve every other type of document. Jennifer and Kimberly enlightened the attendees that the NCAPPS certification is coming from a combination of experience, NC law and from coordination with other state’s certification programs.
The meeting came to a close with the conclusion there would be case studies done in the problem counties and that NCAPPS would provide further information regarding their certification program. There is not currently a new meeting date set.