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In many states across the country, process servers find themselves in competition for business with local sheriff departments. Sheriff’s fees are often less expensive than the fees of process servers, making it an attractive choice for clients.
Law firms, collections companies, and property management firms, who have a high volume of cases that require court documents to be served, often find the lower fees more cost effective for their businesses. In some cases, the cost of service may be a deciding factor for who would be awarded the job.
However, in Oregon, the state statute ultimately dictates how much process servers can charge. Matt Klein, process server and past president of Oregon Association of Process Servers, explained: “Even though Private Process Servers consider Sheriffs as competition, in Oregon we are tied to the fees by Statute. ORS 21.300 (2) states that private process servers can charge whatever their clients agree to pay. However, ORS 20.115 limits the amount the court will award the prevailing party to the amount the Sheriff can charge.”
Currently, in Oregon HB 2618, which was introduced by the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA), is being considered and expected to pass. Matt Klein appeared and testified on behalf of the bill when the Committee held a work session and invited public testimony.
Originally, the bill only included language that has allowed sheriffs the ability to increase process serving fees at a specific amount proposed by the OSSA. The bill would have simply increased the cost to serve a summons from $36 to $45. The cost to serve a second party at the same address would be increased from $20 to $25. This increase is proposed to go into effect on January 1, 2018.
During the legislative review process, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill, which provided for an automatic review in four years to adjust the fees with the cost of living. The proposed amendment triggering the COLA (cost of living adjustment) would be in addition to the proposed rate changes planned to go into effect in January 2018. The COLA review would happen in 2021. The way the language of the bill is written, this would be a one-time review and would not be recurring.
For the COLA review, the Department of Administrative Services would review and calculate the cost of living increase (if any) from that time period. If they find that the cost of living has increased, they will calculate the new fee by taking the original fee and multiplying it by the percent increase, rounding up to the nearest dollar. If the bill passes, this would cause a review and potential fee increase, which would go into effect July 1, 2021. At the time of the review, if the cost of living has not increased, the service of process fees will not increase.
At the time of publication, our sources had indicated that after being amended by the Senate to include the cost of living calculation, the bill was viewed favorably and is anticipated to pass with its current language.
As Oregon’s state statute ultimately dictates how much process servers can charge, the service of process price increase could level the playing field for process servers who pride themselves in providing exceptional service but suffer from lost potential revenue due to the fee restrictions of Oregon statutes. Because process servers are limited in what they can charge, a provision that would allow for a rate increase would be beneficial to both sheriff’s departments and process servers alike.
Oregon legislature states that service of process can be completed by any individual over the age of 18 and who is not a party to the case. Some cases have special insurance requirements.
Many private process servers focus on serving process exclusively. Those that have expanded their business typically offer court filing services or other document related services as value-added services that their clients frequently request. By providing a niche service, process servers can focus on providing a higher level of service to their clients.
To do this, many process servers participate in process server associations to stay abreast of legislation changes that could affect the way service is completed. Those involved in the industry also may take professional development courses to continue and increase their education and knowledge of the field.
Because sheriffs departments provide other valuable services to the community, they do not always have the time or resources to complete service in the way that legal professionals would prefer. While some departments are able to dedicate personnel to this task, that is not always possible due to budget and personnel limitations.
Process servers may also be more apt to honor special requests by clients or provide more communication as to the status of the service. Busy sheriff’s departments are not always able to meet client’s needs and expectations for updates and special requests.
In a 2011 survey, ServeNow found of 100 legal professionals surveyed, 78% prefer process servers over service by the local sheriff, citing the aforementioned qualities and knowledge of the laws regarding service of process. Customer satisfaction also contributed to the preference.
One paralegal who participated in the survey explained why she would choose a process server over the sheriff’s department: “Over my career, I have found process servers to be much faster in getting process served, as the sheriff’s office generally has other things going on.”
Cost is not always the most important factor to consider when getting process service effectuated. Customers should consider how long it takes service to be completed and the success rate of service.
In Oregon, those needing process service should carefully evaluate their civil process service needs before determining who would be best equipped to handle the service. If you need help finding a process server in Oregon, you can find a number of qualified process servers in our directory.
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