|Serving a bride as she was
exiting her carriage at the reception was smoother. With flowers in
one hand and the summons in the other, her smile made me feel like I
had just given her an unexpected wedding present.
I had a hard time justifying the trick serves. Another 10th
District Court process server had no qualms. The defendant was
shielded by an apartment buzzer entrance. She rang him and said: "I
just bumped into your car."
It made my job easier to learn early-on not to assert my
delegated authority from the court. I served a man in an officious,
cold and impersonal manner and he chewed me up and down. When I
returned home, I felt guilty and wrote him a letter of apology. And
I had a showdown with myself. "I am a civil process server. From now
on I'm going to be civil to everyone I serve." I gained the
reputation as the friendly process server.
My regular customers often said: "Here comes the friendly
process server. What do you have for us today?" It seems that some
folks don't pay their bills until we bring them the bad news. And
they eventually have to pay court costs and my fees, a high rate of
But sometimes the defendants respond to the complaint and
overturn it in their favor.
For 20 years I looked forward to every working day which did
not include Sundays unless I had been given a judge's order on a
specific case. Once I served a bunch on Thanksgiving Day before
turkey, but that was the last time. It just didn't feel right.
When we only knew a defendant's employment, we could serve at
several personnel offices. Our prey would be called to a private
room so that no embarrassment would happen.
One time when the business's attorneys said I could not serve
there, I obtained an order from Judge Alfonso Magnotta to tape the
summons on the business front door and mail it first class,
attaching a certificate of mailing to the proof of service. This is
called alternate service and may be done wherever a defendant is
attempting to evade service.
I was self-employed even when I was a deputy sheriff civil
officer of the 37th Circuit Court. Sheriff Jon Olson deputized three
of us, my partner Margaret Krueger, Merrill Bowser and me. We became
the Sheriff's Civil Division. In addition to serving papers, we did
evictions and executions on property and money to satisfy judgments.
Merrill was the best executioner in a long while.
We didn't wear uniforms and drove our own cars. We had a
badge case in pocket or purse and only displayed it when our
authority was being questioned.
I was known in some parts of town as the big deputy sheriff
who didn't pack a weapon.
In 1980, I was a co-founder and officer of a corporation I
gave the name to, Court Officers and Deputy Sheriffs, Process
Servers of Michigan Inc., later referred to as CODSA.
Through the Legislature, we got fees raised for all process
servers in Michigan. This is another example of what a few investors
did for the rest. The business principle here is "Bringing benefits
to self and others."
Imagine earning $5 for a summons, $3 for a garnishment and 15
cents a mile, one trip only. Then fees went to $8, $10 and now $19,
plus higher mileage.
The most popular for servers was the $10 incorrect address
fee. One of our CODSA members said he could live off of that one.
CODSA had a statewide directory and Margaret and I and Jerry
Dean got business from it. My partner and I also were in the
national association directory. We didn't get rich, but we made a
We process servers could write a book on "war stories."
But I'll close this story, giving thanks for the late
Honorable Judge Jack Neller, whose influence acquired a $3.50 per
hour CETA job for me as a bailiff in the 10th District Court for
Judges John Bothwell and Alfonso Magnotta.
Jack wore a red robe, as is done in the Queen's Court in the
United Kingdom. But the Legislature passed a bill requiring judges
to wear black, as is done in the Magistrates' Court in the UK.
Here is another story. Jack always called me "Father."
Don M. Dixon of Pennfield Township worked as a civil process
server from 1976-1997.