Friday, July 21, 2017

Service of Process (Out-of-State Defendants)

A recurring question has been coming up with my tutoring students over the last week, so I thought it a good idea to address it on the blog.  It deals with the federal rules for service of process of out-of-state defendants and the rule can definitely be a bit complex.

The rule regarding service of process to a party (an individual) served in the same state in which the court sits is straight-foward enough:  any person who is 18 years old and not a party to the action may serve process at the defendant's usual place of abode with one of suitable age and discretion who resides there.  In addition, service may be upon an authorized agent of the defendant. There are slightly different rules if dealing with an organization (for example, a corporation), a minor, etc.

But the rules change when the person to be served is outside of the state in which the federal court sits.  First look to the long-arm statute of the state in which the federal court sits. The long-arm statute might guide as to the rules regarding serving a person out of state.  In addition, there is a specific rule for serving third-party defendants (impleader, rule 14), and indispensable parties (rule 19).  The rules provide that third-party defendants or parties required to be joined may be served if served within 100 miles from the place where the action is pending.  This is sometimes referred to as the "bulge provision."

Finally, out-of-state service may be permitted if permitted by federal statute and for cases that involve a federal question (only a federal question, so this provision does not apply to cases that are in federal court based on diversity) if a defendant is served with process and is not subject to general jurisdiction in any state, provided that the defendant also has sufficient contacts with the United States and that jurisdiction is not prohibited by statute.

Worth keeping in mind as we approach the July exam.....

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