As of shortly after 11:00 AM Monday, March 23, 2020, pursuant to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) and by lack of a “Critical Infrastructure Workers” description inclusion, the duties of Process Servers were classified as “non-essential”. Professionally speaking; I don’t believe this should have been the case no more than those that work for FedEx, UPS, USPS or anyone else that is expected to make deliveries, particularly considering the fact that we have legal obligations and responsibilities tied directly to due process, due diligence, effort and inquiry. Process Server duties are absolutely essential, and they absolutely must travel to perform those duties.
Although I certainly understand the Governor’s and other individual’s fears of exposure and further contamination; we at Risk & Associates had already instituted every precaution that those in a medical clinics, doctors offices or hospital had; and so had our Process Servers. Universal precautions and the additional protocols specified in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services directive dated March 11, 2020 were already being practiced and strictly adhered to.
Originally, I had left it up to the discretion of each staff member and the individual Process Server to make their own decision whether or not they wished to self-quarantine or reduce their work schedules or travel routines. Up until Monday, March 23rd, (and not surprisingly) all of our office staff had chosen to continue working full-time and all of our Process Services were still out there serving and wanted to continue. Everyone has financial obligations, and many have children at home they are responsible for and knew the consequences of not working. That’s why they had already incorporated those safeguards into their home, work, public contact and travel routines.
All that being said; we immediately complied with Governor Whitmer’s Order. We stood down and directed our Process Servers to cease serving. We reluctantly joined the thousands of others that next day and stayed home, only to discover that a Court Officer in Ingham County and a Special Deputy in Genesee County had chosen to ignore the Order, and continue serving papers. Apparently; their understanding of a “Critical Infrastructure Worker” (workers necessary to sustain or protect life) is somewhat different than what it clearly states in the Order….
Now; one could commend them for their efforts at “Due Diligence” and commitment to their clients or; question their behavior and ethics for intentionally violating an Order that has the same affect as law. For me; it’s an easy distinction between the two. Though I disagree with parts of the Order; I STILL COMPLIED WITH IT! If you’re a law firm, business, municipality or a mutual client like the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, I encourage you to question the integrity and honesty of someone that openly violates a State-wide mandate Order, and if you want them conducting service work on your behalf. In addition; how would you enjoy having to defend yourself because a Process Server/Court Officer/Special Deputy (or one of their “agents} was the only person that could have possibly infected that person with CORONAVIRUS while they were obeying the Stay-at-Home Order because that person was the only person they had any contact with….
Although most Courts are restricting access and some are even claiming to be closed; they still have staff reporting for work. Some on a rotational workday basis or reduced work schedule, but all of them continue to receive mail and other deliveries. With the few exception of those Courts that require in-person filing only; I continue to encourage our clients (and for them to encourage their clients) to continue filing claims as much as possible. Should they choose not to; then it’s only logical that everyone will begin mass filing when the pandemic slows down or ends, and all us involved in the process (law firms; court clerks, office staff, process servers, etc.) will become so inundated by the extreme bottleneck of work-flow, that none of us will be able to get much accomplished. If we allow that to occur; frustration with each other’s inability to process their work in a timely manner will undoubtedly cause several good business and working relationships to go bad….
Our positions is; try and proceed as much as possible within the restrictions of the Order. If we don’t; then we will not performing our due diligence, and not fulfilling the obligation we have to the Courts, our clients and even to the parties being served. We are already anticipating and are prepared for the multitude of N.T.A.’s and Second/Extended/Alias Summons that will he issued and headed our way and will require being “married up” with the originally issued service. Proper and correct Document Service Preparation will be absolutely imperative at this time before it is sent out to our Process Servers more than ever before!
As soon as Governor Whitmer’s Stay-at-Home Order was issued, we activated the “Work from Home” piece of our Catastrophic Emergency Plan allowing us to continue operations by immediately having several staff members remotely assisting our Clients, Courts, Sherriff’s Offices and Municipalities with their on-going need of information and Case Management communications. We continue to receive cases electronically via our client customized F.T.P. and e-mail, and in-house by U.S. Mail, United Parcel Service, FedEx and other delivery services and; our Data Entry staff are ensuring these claims and other services are being prepared for immediate assignment to our Process Servers just as soon as the pandemic is over; and/or Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 is rescinded.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues; anything we can do to work with you or your staff to make sure your workload runs smoothly; do not hesitate to let us know. We are going to continue doing our very best for each and every client, each and every day, on each and every case.
Rick E. Risk
Stay safe, stay healthy