The STO Center for Operations is responsible for managing the Service of Process Contracts. The contract monitor is Bettite Davenport, CSS STO Contracts Attorney. As of July 2021, approximately 514 personal service items are invoiced per month and reviewed prior to payment for compliance with contract requirements, representing a cost of about $41,000.00. This figure is not inclusive of any mailing costs for other methods of service. CSS current service of process vendor is EZ Messenger accessible with your login credentials via the internet at EZ Messenger Login.
Until further notice, ALL Requests for Service are to be uploaded through the EZ Messenger Portal. This includes requests for sheriff provided service. STO no longer has a dedicated investigator and does not have a mechanism for sheriff referral; please do not send papers to STO for service. Offices should refrain from sending papers directly to the sheriff as well since doing so may make CSS responsible for fees which exceed our contract rate with EZ Messenger and the ability to track the progress of the service request will not be available.
Instructions for uploading documents to EZ Messenger can be found at Service of Process Method by County & EZ Messenger Training.
If you do not currently have an EZ Messenger portal account, please contact the administrative user in your office which is usually the Office Manager. Your administrative user can add users, deactivate them should you move to another position outside of CSS, update your user info such as name change or phone number, and provide you with a reset of password if necessary. They can find instructions for this at Service of Process Method by County & EZ Messenger Training.
Summary of Tips to Facilitate Successful Service of Process
The full text of this is available on the InfoNet at Service of Process Method by County & EZ Messenger Training and in our email of May 27, 2021 (4:38 PM), interface with Teams user group Service of Process Information, please contact us to be included if you are not a user in the EZ Messenger portal. A brief overview and expansion of highlighted ideas include the following:
The most critical preparation tool for successful service is Locate. Always preview a provided address by typing into an online search tool such as Google to determine what type of building is located in the area. These tools often have a satellite view and a realistic virtual walk down the actual street where the address is located. This is important for the following reasons:
- Postal verification may only indicate where the person receives mail not actual place of residence. This can be an Amazon locker, UPS store, substance abuse treatment center, homeless shelter, etc., which are unlikely to be accessible to a server or where the person to be served is at that moment.
- If the photo of the property on the internet is current, you may be able to see that it is a vacant lot or otherwise be unlikely as a currently occupied home structure.
- If it is a multi-unit structure, you will know that an apartment or lot number is needed prior to referring the document for service. You will have a better opportunity to obtain this from the management office than will a private server due to CSS position as an official requester.
- We have a large compliment of available resources within our division for locate and also enhanced requests via ESC via CSS.CentralLocate@okdhs.org. Therefore, we are not currently contracted through a private vendor for skip tracing.
- Should you be provided with additional locate information that you’ve verified and wish to provide to EZ Messenger via the portal after a job number has been created, please use the following process Service of Process Method by County & EZ Messenger Training.
Timing from upload into portal to expected return date should allow a minimum of 45 days for instate requests and 90 days for out-of-state. During this time, the referring person should monitor the job/case for activity using the status notes tab in the portal. Suggested timing increments are as follows, once 10 days after upload and once at least 14 days prior to the expected return date (should be prior to hearing date). If there is a problem with the service, please report to vendor and CSS.Investigations.Operations. Even if it is listed as an option, please do not request rush service as it is generally not successful in our cases with the current system. If you have a very rare situation with someone who is in county jail locally and will be released soon, this might be acceptable if you advise EZ of the circumstances. It should be reserved as a last resort for unusually difficult cases.
Q & A Sample Issues
- Question: Why has vendor paid the sheriff for service before the affidavit was received?
- Answer: Many sheriffs, particularly those out of state, will not commence service without advance payment. Unfortunately, they generally do not accept payment through electronic transfer, so this adds a week or more delay to the timing of service.
- Question: Why did the server serve someone who was underage or didn’t live in the household?
- Answer: Many of the servers are private contractors and NOT peace officers. They don’t have the authority to require verification such as an id or proof of age/status. There are many people who look older or younger than their actual age so they must rely on what the person accepting service tells them for the most part.
- Question: I have proof and have many others insisting that the person to be served is in the location but person answering the door says they don’t. Can’t the server just sit around and see if they show up?
- Answer: It is best in specific situations to request sheriff service, a partial list follows:
- When it is suspected that other occupants are trying to conceal the person to be served.
- When it is a gated or “no trespassing” location.
- When there is a known danger such as vicious dogs, hazardous condition of the property, suspected criminal activity such as drug or gun violation, or threats from the occupants or neighboring property, etc.
- When there have been repeated attempts at service and person to be served has moved during the service several times, apparently trying to evade.
- When the “residence” is a mental health or drug treatment facility or half way house which may not allow private service.
- Question: Server has written in status notes that there are dogs, no trespassing sign, or other hazard and is unable to serve. Why hasn’t the job been automatically referred to the sheriff?
- Answer: Although vendor and CSS STO have agreed that sheriff referral should be automatic, sometimes there is no mechanism for ensuring a seamless transition. Therefore, it is important that you monitor the job for continuity of activity towards service. So, you should check on the case within 10 days of the failure to serve and if there has been no further update, send a message to EZ requesting that it be forwarded to sheriff.
There have been situations nationally and locally where process servers have been threatened, shot, attacked by dogs, and even fatally injured while attempting to serve documents. Private process servers are not generally equipped with any protective gear, radios, or weapons, but are just trying to do their job. We want to remember to show concern for their safety and remain realistic in our expectations.
You may also want to review the following CSQuest articles:
- What is Service of Process
- Service of Process Using the Address of Record
- Service of Process by Acknowledgment of Receipt, Waiver of Service and Entry of Appearance
- Service of Process by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested
- Delivery Restricted to the Addressee
- Service of Process by Personal Delivery