If you have two minutes, and want to see how the White House is supposed to work, watch this two minute clip. Yes, it’s from the West Wing which was a show that idealized the presidency, yet they also hired many consultants to get an idea as to what it was “really” like. This is what it is really supposed to be like:
Service for the public is a privilege, it is not a right. I know that even serving as a law clerk for a judge, I had to sign papers stating that I had no criminal record, that I was not 90 days late on any bill, that I had a current Driver’s License, tags, and insurance, and that I understood that should anything happen that would look poorly upon the integrity of the court, I was to report it immediately.
Many of you have likely signed similar documents. That’s how things are supposed to work, and if it supposed to work that way in a court in a small state, it is damn sure how things are supposed to work at the White House. At least, it was, until the Trump crime family took over.
So, Mayme reports (isn’t she a great writer?) on our wonderful and exploding site, that Jared Kushner has ahh, gone out of his way to avoid service, even to the point of returning certified mail. According to her report, the judge called out Kushner for doing so, noting that “this is not a game.”
Now, imagine the person in a small court in a small state having the fear of god put into him or her, knowing the responsibility one has upon entering government service, and juxtapose the unbelievable arrogance on display by these people.
Service of process can be the easiest thing in the world. To be a corporation, there must be a registered agent, listed by the State, as receiver for all process served. There are companies that specialize in the business of managing service for mid to large corporations. For individuals who have an attorney, individuals like Jared Kushner for godsake, 99% of the time all it takes is a phone call to that person’s attorney asking if they will accept service for that person. And then there are the nightmares, usually in family law or in very sketchy businesses, where people seem to specialize in avoiding service.
Not answering the door is one trick. Though, I have seen process services dress like UPS truck drivers, or flower deliverers, to get the door open. Once the door is open, all one has to do is establish it is the person’s residence, and leave the papers with whomever answers the door so long as the person is “of age” (over 18). It does not even need to be the person named in the lawsuit.
Process servers must live an awful life, what would it be like to have a job where absolutely everyone detested seeing you?
Regardless, whatever problems we have today in serving people, they pale in comparison to the days when we didn’t have the internet, phones, cars, electricity and faxes.
But, even in the days before all that neat stuff, we did have the law. There is a portion of the Constitution known as the “Full Faith and Credit” clause, Article IV Section One. For our purposes, the clause merely means that a judgment in one state must be honored in every state as if rendered in that very county – full faith to all states regarding judgments in lawsuits. Powerful.
Thus, back in those days, personal service, became the ideal means of proving that you did not pull a trick to get a New York judgment against your neighbor in Texas that you just recorded with the county. To guard against such tricks, the law required that your neighbor knew about the lawsuit.
However, back in those days, without cell phones and even without addresses (in some cases), even finding someone could be extremely difficult. In such cases, it was – and still is – possible to serve someone by “public notice.” You cannot do it first off, you must show the judge that you have made many attempts at personal service (just like Jared Kushner), and failed. On those occasions, a court would then allow you to publish in an “appropriate paper” (usually the one main one in the county, in which the person resides, and definitely in the county where the property is located if the suit involves property). It had to be published such that any responsible person – especially in those days when legal notices really did have some meaning to people because of this very fact – would get word that a lawsuit existed against them, and they needed to respond within appropriate time, or a default judgment would be entered against them.
Courts abhor default judgments, it’s written all through the law, that they can do almost anything to avoid getting to the point where a default judgment is entered. But once one IS entered, good f’in luck getting it reversed by then coming out of the woodwork and saying “I’m here now!” (there are exceptions for military people serving and other exceptions to make it fair). About the only defense to get a default judgment reversed is if the whole thing was set up just to trick you, and YOU had to prove it was all a trick, not easy.
The point being, that service of process is a big deal in the United States because a judgment is so powerful. Once one obtains a judgment, one can go to any county anywhere the Defendant has anything and attach that judgment. It could be lien on real property, it can be a lien on a bank account, it can be garnishing wages – this is strong stuff, having a South Carolina judgment filed in San Francisco County Court that suddenly cuts your gigantic salary as CEO of Wells Fargo to a paycheck of $325.00, or whatever the minimum is where you live.
Okay, now we get to the cool part. Yes, it took a while to set up. But, now you’re rewarded. All those laws about service by publication are still on the books, because people like Jared Kushner still exist.
Had I been the judge in Jared Kushner’s case, I would not have “ordered it” served on Kushner’s attorney. I would have signed an order allowing publication by public notice in the Washington F’ing Post and New York Times, and I might even go so far as to say that because he is such a busy public figure, it must be published in both the legal notices, AND, in a half page ad, describing exactly what he and his fellow defendants (including Trump) have done to avoid process.
We know that you can no more shame a Kushner or Trump than you can your couch. But, there would be a slight “sting” to them when they read it in the New York Times, knowing all their friends will see it, too.
Getting back to where we started. Yes, the West Wing was a valentine, idealized to the point one knew it could only be TV. Yet, parts came directly from consultants who worked in the White House. And, the attention to the ethical rules, ability to cite them and appreciate their importance genuinely reflected reality …at the time. Hiding and using the Secret Service as a shield to avoid a lawsuit? Can you possibly imagine that happening in the Bartlett Administration, what about the Obama administration?
Look at how far and fast we are falling.