Fraudulently obtained default judgments ruin lives. Many defendants are ignorant of their cases and therefore do not ap-pear for court. Defendants suffer dire consequences as victims of falsified service of process. They learn of their lawsuits after their wages are garnished, assets seized, or when their poor credit precludes them from obtaining housing or a new job. For decades, fraudulent service of process has been wide-spread in high volume court dockets, such as landlord and ten-ant, debt collection, and small claims matters. Judgments granted to the debt collector plaintiff disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Some plaintiffs obtained such judgments against defendants who live in mostly black neighborhoods at a rate 18 times higher than it did against defendants in mostly white neighborhoods. Despite this knowledge, the current rules of pro-cedure in most jurisdictions do not require reliable verifications of service. Process servers complete the proof of service them-selves, thereby “proving” their service through self-verification. When proof of service relies only on the “honor system,” this is unreliable and unfair, and fails to protect defendants when more reliable technological verifications are available. The integrity of our judicial system is challenged when service-of-process rules fail to use technological verifications to protect litigants from fraud. The current service of process standard requires “notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise in-terested parties of the pendency of the action.” Since the U.S. Supreme Court articulated this standard in 1950, the circum-stances have simply changed. Therefore, so must our service of process requirements. Traditional methods of service, which lack reliable verifications, are not reasonably calculated to provide constitutionally adequate notice. The technological advance-ments that have occurred in the decades following Mullane, pro-vide new and better circumstances under which notice must be provided.
Solving Sewer Service: Fighting Fraud with Technology,
70 Ark. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarworks.uark.edu/alr/vol70/iss4/1