Stupid subpoena question

Up front: I’m not looking for legal advice, I’m just kind of looking for petty office-politics-vindication.

I work at a helpdesk. This is in itself kind of lame, but it’s good to be working, and anyway that’s not the point. Anyway, I also act as a receptionist for our office, and this is incredibly lame, but it’s good to be working.

So today, a server came to our locked front door, called from the door phone and said that he had a subpoena for the department. I let him in and he served us. Okay, fair enough. I figure I get my manager to accept, give it to the legal dept and let them sort it out.

So after the fact, I get dressed down for letting the guy in. My manager seems to be under the impression that if I didn’t let him into the office, or if we declined service, that we wouldn’t have to deal with it. Service of process doesn’t actually work that way, does it?

Your state’s rules of civil procedure probably have a mechanism for alternate service of process if the subject is clearly evading service.

Your manager sounds like a piece of shit that can’t deal with his own problems so he makes them everybody else’s and passes the buck. What did he think was going to happen if the server couldn’t get it properly served on that visit, the server and the lawsuit would just magically disappear, forever?

At best all he’d be able to do is delay the inevitable, he might as well face the music and avoid all the headache of hiding under the bed every time someone strange knocks on his door.

Yeah, you didn’t do anything wrong. Your manager is a jerk.

You should tell your manager that he’s an idiot and a pussy (for the reasons posted above). But, as you mention, it’s good to be working.

I thought people serving subpoenas had to disguise themselves as pizza deliverymen and then when you let them in they’d go “Bam! You’ve been served!”. I’m a little disappointed. Also, I never got that pizza.

You’re confusing supeonas with porn.

If you could just “decline service,” it would be pretty hard for the whole justice system thing to work.

^^Reminds me of those episodes of COPS when some person being arrested tries to ‘refuse’ the arrest by simply stating they wish to refuse the arrest. That tactic never quite works out for them.

Um, I have to say that if there is no legal reason YOU have to let the guy in, don’t let the guy in.

If that subpoena is not for you, if you don’t have to be the one to accept it, and if you won’t get yourself in legal trouble for ignoring the server- why let him in?

Because he’s just a guy trying to do his job. And wasting his time and making him miserable won’t stop the case from occurring.

Except letting in subpoena servers shouldn’t be in his job description. I can understand why he did it, but there is no way that I would done the same. If the boss wasn’t there, then the server would just have to come back. He is just asking for trouble letting the guy in.

Unless someone has a search warrant, they can’t enter the premises without permission.

(Not legal advice)

In your boss’s defense, there are two things that might have caused a problem for the company. One is, you didn’t have to let the guy in to serve the subpoena on the company. Would that have made the whole thing go away? I very much doubt it. But you never know. It’s like the point-after kick in an NFL game: it probably will never make any difference, but you always make the other team kick it just in case. The second is, you accepted service on behalf of your company, and they may not want you to do that. Lots of times they have specific people who have authority to accept service of process, because those people are trained in making sure everything was done properly, etc. IIRC sometimes it’s even the case that a company can’t be served in a particular state, and has to be served somewhere else – unless a representative from the company agrees to accept service in the state. (If I remember right, it doesn’t matter whether you’re one of the people your company allows to accept service; as long as you appear to have the authority to accept, that is binding on the company.)

In your defense, as others have said, dodging service is a legal but shitty thing to do, and there’s really no morally defensible reason to do it. At best, you could say you don’t see any need to make it easier for people to sue you, but at the end of the day what we’re talking about is an attempt to frustrate the normal operation of the justice system and needlessly drive up the other side’s costs. On top of that, again as others have said, the chances that this will make any actual difference to the outcome of the case is probably miniscule. I’m sure the plaintiff (or whoever it is) would find some other way to effect service.

It’s not his place to take the blame when the company gets sued either. This is bullshit on the part of the manager. If the manager wants to hold somebody accountable for breaking the rules that’s one thing, but until I hear they had a company-wide meeting informing employees that they are actively trying to dodge lawsuits I don’t see how the guy manning the front desk needs to be held accountable when a guy bearing news of an active lawsuit comes calling.

If they want somebody versed in law guarding the door they should have hired a lawyer to man the desk. Until then they reap what they sow.

I think that if they didn’t want him letting in specific kinds of people, like people serving subpoenas or people nor wearing clothing, it’s incumbent on them to lay out in the rules that no, he does not let in people that are naked and no, he does not let in people serving subpoenas.

If they don’t make it explicit, they defer to his judgment, which obviously was to accept service and send it to the legal department.

I’m ostensibly a PC tech, who staffs the front desk because nobody else in the department does. There are no real “policies” on this kind of thing, so… Well I do the best I can. shrug

I’m not worried that anything’s going to come down on me over it: We’re a public agency, so the organization gets sued a fair amount by people who think we have money, and subpoenaed for public records with some regularity, but this is the first time I’ve seen it come up with our department.

In the interest of getting her to shut up, I have agreed to my manager to in the future not let any non-employees in, which ought to be fun next time UPS, FedEx, or somebody’s spouse comes by.

That’s a good solution, and you can take it a step further. When anyone NOT an employee shows up, buzz the manager and have her stop what she is doing and come out to give approval for entry for said person. After about the third time she has to personally approve a delivery guy, employee spouse or external contractor she’ll realize it’s time to lay out some real guidelines as to who may enter and who may not. After all, that’s her damn job as manager.

I can see why the manager would be upset though. Think of it like this:

What possible scenario can you come up with that involves you receiving a subpoena, where you WANT to be served ASAP? I can’t come up with one. If I’m gonna be on the receiving end, I wouldn’t mind if I never got it. That’s because the only way it’d be important to me is if I was on the sending end.

So, acting as an employee there, it’s kind of sad that your manager has to clarify that no, we don’t want you helping to get us served thank you very much. It’s like you’re playing for the other team, or playing for a third party unaligned team.

You really think that’s your responsibility as some random help desk employee to go through that thought process?

Fuck the company. If they don’t want to be served, they need to make that clear ahead of time. As this thread as shown, most people aren’t aware of the legal ramifications with being served. Heck, before this thread, I figured trying to dodge a subpoena would be illegal… which would put the impetus on me accepting it.

So yeah, fuck the company in this respect.

I did some process serving for a little while when I was young. (My mom is a paralegal and hooked me up.) If you have reasonably thick skin and aren’t terrified of people, it’s easy money. I’d get a stack of subpoenas, and then just go out delivering them. Afterward I’d have to write down a brief description of the person in case I had to show up in court (never did), and that was that.

I’d have a name and address and just go there. If I found the dude(tte), I’d just ask their name to be sure and hand it to them. If I went to their residence three different times (varying time of day) and got no answer, I could just tape it to the door and be done. If dude(tte) refused to take it from my hand, I was free to drop it on the ground in front of them. It’s not like I’d have to track people through the woods and staple it to them.

I got a kick out of it when people tried to dodge me, or would stand there staunchly refusing to take it from my hand…as if the shit would go away if they just ignored it long enough. How stupid are you? Some people, like the manager in the OP, get all angry and offended by it, which I always thought was kind of ridiculous. I mean, you pretty much know the score before the subpoena ever shows up, and it’s not like the guy delivering it has anything to do with your…“situation”.

This manager sounds like a Grade A douche. The server would have gotten it delivered anyway.