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Process Servers

History

Modern-day process servers owe their lineage to the English bailiff, whose powers included the serving and enforcement of common law decrees such as writs of attainder (a notice of outlawry, the loss of civil rights, or sentence of death), or habeas corpus (a call for one in custody to be brought to court). The bailiff was considered a minor court official with authority to serve the court in several ways, one of which included handling legal documents. In English literature, the most notable characterizations of bailiffs can be found in the works of the 19th-century writer Charles Dickens.

In the United States, these duties were carried out by constables until the 1930s, when the term private process server was coined to describe an official who could serve legal documents, but who had no law enforcement powers. The heavy burden of serving all the legal papers fell on the court officials and law enforcement personnel until the process server position was born. Although all criminal process service is still carried out by many sheriffs' and marshals' offices, much of the civil process service is now handled by independent process servers.