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Civil Process

Civil Process - Paper Service



GUIDE TO CIVIL PROCESS

The "The "Guide to Civil Process" prepared by our office is intended to fill an information void and to assist lawyers, law offices and others dealing with civil process. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive or exhaustive document or a treatise on the subject of civil process. Rather, it is designed to address specific and common questions that relate to the role of the Hall County Sheriff in the civil process function.

Understanding our narrowly defined and specific duties and responsibilities in processing, executing, serving, and returning civil process will assist you in your efforts by helping to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes that often accompany commonly held, yet incorrect assumptions about the role of our office in this function.

The guide contains useful reference information including often-used county telephone numbers, Sheriff's Office telephone numbers, contacts, Sheriff's fees and costs, hours of operation, civil process suggestions, tips, procedures and facts, and answers to the most commonly encountered questions pertaining to civil process.

It is hoped that this guide will become a useful reference and will facilitate your dealings with us. Because this is a first edition, we welcome feedback, suggestions and comments regarding this guide.

Sincerely,

Jerry Watson, Sheriff

Introduction and history

The Hall County Sheriff's Office employs 29 sworn deputies and a civilian support staff of 10 full and part-time time employees. Combined they provide law enforcement related services to over 54,000 citizens of Hall County, including approximately 11,000 in the primary patrol area outside the City limits of Grand Island. The department provides its services in a mixed environment consisting of urban, suburban and rural settings encompassing 562 square miles.

The office was established in 1859 during Nebraska's territorial days when Omaha was the capitol of the territory. The office has evolved in response to the changing requirements of the office of the Sheriff and is currently organized into Three divisions each headed by a division captain answering directly to the Sheriff and Chief Deputy. The divisions include:

  • Road Patrol Division which includes the patrol function and 911 call response. In addition, the Division provides technical support and employee training office wide.
  • Criminal Investigation Division is responsible for follow up investigations of all crimes occurring within the office's jurisdiction, and narcotics investigations.
  • Administrative and Court Services Division which provides public services such as DARE instruction, vehicle title inspections, property & evidence management, community service functions, Court Services Bureau which provides security for the County, and District courts, prisoner transportation, Civil Process, Civil Proceeds, Records, and Fugitive Warrant Divisions.

The Civil Process Division responsible for processing and serving approximately 1,100 civil and criminal writs per month. The division utilizes a computerized writ processing system that allows for the individual routing, tracking, service and return of a high volume of writs with a minimal clerical staff.

Unlike other sheriff's offices in Nebraska that rely on sworn deputy sheriffs to serve civil process, the Hall County Sheriff's Office utilizes a staff of civilian, non-sworn process servers. These specially trained professional process servers are hourly employees and do not receive mileage or service fee reimbursements.

An administrative Sergeant directs the activities of the process servers and works under the overall supervision of the Captain in charge of the Civil Process Division. A sworn deputy sheriff executes statutory process including executions, attachments and replevins under the direction of the Sergeant supervising.

CIVIL PROCESS INFORMATION

Office Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., not including court holidays

Our mailing address:
Hall County Sheriff
Civil Process Division
111 Public Safety Drive
Grand Island, NE 68801

Our telephone number:
(308) 385-5200

Time required to serve process
Allow at least three working days for service

Our average time of service usually does not exceed 24 hour, however allowing at least three working days for service gives us a reasonable chance to effect service and is fair to the defendants and witnesses being served.

Praecipes:

Include a praecipe on writs where legally required

Writs received without praecipes cause unnecessary delays by forcing us to search the body of the document for service information.

Include complete and accurate service information

State Statute 25-502.01 requires an attorney to provide service information on his or her praecipe including an address to effect service. It is not our responsibility to perform research or investigations in order to locate defendants. Since we rely on the completeness and accuracy of service information supplied by you, it is in your best interest to ensure that service information is correct. If you rely on old file information for your praecipe, or if you fail to provide complete and accurate service information, the chances of successful service are reduced.

Defendants with rural route or post office box service addresses

We cannot serve defendants at rural route addresses or post office boxes. If you have a service address or location that is a post office box or rural route address, contact the post office serving that box or address and obtain a numerical street address or accurate directions to the location. It is your responsibility to perform this research and provide us with a location to effect service.

If a defendant is to be served at a place of employment

If you direct us to serve a defendant at a place of employment, it is your responsibility to perform the research necessary to provide us with the defendant's department, current job site and current working hours. Trying to locate a particular employee of a major corporation with numerous divisions scattered throughout several sites in the metropolitan area creates needless delays and reduces the chances of successful service.

Specifying residence service as an option

State Statute 25-505.01 provides that an attorney can specify the manner of service on his or her praecipe. By specifying personal service only on a praecipe when the law also allows residence service reduces the options for effecting service. Unless you have a particular requirement for personal service for a writ that can also be legally served by residence service, please be sure to specify on your praecipe that you wish "personal or residence service".

Difficult service or avoiding service defendant procedures

Supplemental defendant information

If you know that a defendant is going to be difficult to serve or has a history of avoiding service, please provide us with as much information as possible. Additional information increases the likelihood of successful service. Helpful information includes:

  • Complete defendant personal information including middle initial, date of birth, social security number, last known address, place of employment, etc.
  • Physical description including age, height, weight, hair color, glasses, moustache, scars, marks, tattoos, etc.
  • Vehicle descriptions, photograph of the defendant, etc.

Alternate (substitute or constructive) service
If you have trouble locating an avoiding or difficult defendant, you have the option of filing a motion for substitute or constructive service under state statute 25-517.02. We adhere to strict service procedures and rigorous documentation that can assist you when filing a motion for alternate service.

Do not ask us to leave a summons or other writ at an avoiding defendant's residence in the hope that he or she will appear. The Hall County Sheriff's Office will only serve process according to the law. If we cannot serve a writ, a return of not found must be made, and State statute 25-507.01 requires us to return not found summonses to the issuing court.

Violent, mentally unstable defendants or those with communicable or infectious diseases

Our process servers work in an increasingly dangerous environment and they are not law enforcement officers and are not armed. Their physical safety is paramount. Please indicate on your praecipe if a defendant has:

  • a history of violence
  • a history of mental instability
  • a history of alcohol or drug abuse
  • a history of weapons offenses
  • a communicable or infectious disease

Service fees and billing privileges

Billing for services rendered is a privilege. All fees will be paid in advance unless prior arrangements are made with our civil process office.

Billing attorneys for service fees is a privilege and not a right. State Statute 33-120 allows us to collect our fees in advance before rendering service. Unlike many other sheriff's offices and other branches of government, our office is one of the few agencies that will serve process without advance payment, if prior credit approval is established.

Please pay service fees promptly when billed

Fees

Fee Schedule

In accordance with Nebraska Statute 33-117, the following fee structure for process service is in effect:

  • Service fee (per writ) $ 35.00 and $10.00 for each additional person on that writ

  • Return fee (per writ) $ 18.00 + mileage (if served)

  • Return fee (per writ) $ 6.00 + mileage if not served)

Unused advance fees will be refunded.

Please make checks payable to the Hall County Sheriff.

When submitting papers to the Sheriff's Office for service, please enclose the original papers for return purposes and copies for service.

Questions on fees or billing statements
If you have any questions regarding your monthly fee statement or about our fees, please telephone Penny or Rosalie at 385-5200.

Subpoena Duces Tecum
Unless you have specific requirements that a subpoena duces tecum must be served upon a named individual, please specify that service is to be effected upon "the custodian of records". If you specify service upon a named individual instead of custodian of records service may be delayed or impossible because the named individual is on vacation, sick leave or is otherwise unavailable.

Change of address notification for attorney offices
Please notify the Clerk of the District Court at 385-5144 and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office at 385-5200 if you change addresses so that we have a current billing address and contact number.

Extra writ copies for making returns
Please provide an extra copy to be used by us when making a return. An extra copy for a return is required of all writs except summons.

Make witness fees payable to the witness
Do not make witness fees payable to the Hall County Sheriff's Office. Unnecessary endorsements, handling and other measures must be taken when witness fees are incorrectly made payable to this office. We are a governmental agency and this oversight results in time consuming and needless accounting headaches and delays.

When combining a summons and petition with other papers or attachments for service

Please specify the attachments on the praecipe so that the clerical staff can determine when all additional papers or attachments have been received and the writs can be combined and routed for service. Failing to do this can result in delays that reduce the chances for successful service.

When combining writs for service that have different due or return dates, service will be attempted until the first applicable due date. For example, if you instruct us to combine a temporary restraining order (tro) with a summons for simultaneous service, we will attempt service until the tro expires. It is your responsibility to track your case file and check for service when the shortest applicable due date approaches. You must then provide us with additional service instructions regarding any remaining active writs.

Do not refer clients to us to check for service or for inquiries related to civil process

Inquiries from clients checking for service or seeking information about our process service responsibilities commonly evolve into requests for legal advice or for comparisons between what the client believes his or her attorney should be doing and what other attorneys do under similar circumstances, etc. The drain on our clerical staff is substantial. It is our policy to deal only with attorneys or law offices. We do not provide legal advice or information to plaintiffs or defendants.

Hall County Sheriff jurisdiction

Service addresses must be within Hall County
Hall County boundaries:

  • North Boundary: Loup River Road

  • South Boundary: Barrows Road
  • West Boundary: Wiseman Road
  • East Boundary: Gunbarrel Road

Communications between attorneys and the office

Communication: Cornerstone of successful process service

The Civil Process and Civil Proceeds divisions of the Field Services Bureau are a vital link in the civil process chain. It is important that you and your staff communicate with us and advise us of your requirements, wishes and needs. The majority of problems encountered in serving civil process are traceable to a lack of communication between an attorney and our office.

We serve numerous attorneys registered with the Clerk of the District Court office. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to give each writ the individual attention that was possible even a few years ago. By communicating with us and fulfilling your obligations via a complete and accurate praecipe and paying service fees promptly when billed, our relationship will be a positive and productive one.

Returning telephone calls from process servers

Our process servers are not required to perform legal research or conduct investigations to locate defendants. However, in the course of their service attempts they often develop leads on where a defendant may be, or have questions on how to proceed with service when all leads and service information have been exhausted. Under these circumstances they commonly contact the plaintiff attorney seeking further instructions or assistance. If you receive a message that a process server has called and is attempting to serve process for you, please return the call as quickly as practical. If additional information is required, two attempts will be made by telephone to contact originating attorney or court. Unsuccessful contact will result with writ being returned.

Defendants entering voluntary appearances
Please notify us when a defendant we are attempting to serve enters a voluntary appearance so that we can cancel our service attempts.

Suggestions and comments
In our efforts to provide professional and efficient civil process service, we continuously seek suggestions and new ideas to assist us in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our operation.

If you have a suggestion or comment about our operation please feel free to contact us. Complaints, comments, and suggestions are valuable forms of feedback that enable us to fine-tune our procedures.

If you have a suggestion or comment please telephone the Civil Process Division at 385-5200.

Complaints
The Administrative Court Division enjoys a reputation for efficiency, professionalism and integrity. However, the nature of civil process service can sometimes yield misunderstandings and complaints. If you have a complaint telephone the appropriate number below. All complaints are actively investigated and resolved.

If your complaint involves process service or a process server, contact either:

  • Office Manager Theresa Soukup 385-5200

If your complaint involves an execution, attachment, replevin or a process deputy sheriff, contact:

  • Sergeant Bryan Simonson 385-5200

Execution and attachment levy procedures

Goods and chattels first

State statutes 25-1516 and 25-1518 require us to levy upon goods and chattels before levying upon lands and tenements. The law also requires us to make a diligent search for goods and chattels before returning an execution unsatisfied. We cannot legally make a return of unsatisfied if unencumbered assets upon which to levy are found.

Leviable property known to the petitioner or plaintiff attorney

Please notify us if you know of leviable property. The search for goods and chattels is facilitated if known and unencumbered assets are indicated to us. It is important for the plaintiff attorney to check for liens and encumbrances on any prospective property before we levy on it.

Partial judgment satisfaction

If you have received monies from a defendant partially satisfying a judgment, please direct defendant to make payment payable to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, then please notify us immediately so that we can adjust our collection efforts accordingly. Once a collection procedure has been started through the Sheriff’s Office, all monies should pass through the system for fee collections.

Mutual agreements satisfying a judgment

If the plaintiff and defendant in an action arrive at a mutual agreement, please notify us immediately so that we can discontinue our efforts.

Writs of assistance, writs of restitution, other move-out writs

To protect the petitioner's property as well as the personal belongings and property of the defendant, departmental policy allows the occupants of a dwelling or building a short time to gather or secure their possessions or property before and vacating the building. The process deputy will stand by while the locks are being changed for purposes of keeping the peace. The petitioner will arrange for a locksmith to change the locks previous to the Deputies arrival. Once the property has been returned to the petitioner, defendant will have to make arrangements with the petitioner to remove other personal belongings.

COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Ex parte custody orders

Question: I have an ex parte custody order involving minor children currently in the custody of a parent or guardian. Will the HCSO meet my client and turn custody of the minor children over to him or her?

Answer: No.

Ex parte orders are served upon the defendant like other writs. It is up to the defendant to comply with the order or appear at a show cause hearing to explain why he or she is not complying. The only writs authorizing the HCSO to remove minor children from the custody of a parent or guardian are orders for immediate custody or writs of habeas corpus issued by a Hall County District Court.

The circumstances underlying the issuance of ex parte orders granting temporary custody are usually emotionally charged. Because the HCSO will not force a parent or guardian to relinquish custody when served with an ex parte custody order, having a petitioner present serves no useful purpose. Our experience indicates that the presence of a petitioner during service only aggravates already strained emotions resulting in increased danger to everyone present.

Other service arrangements for avoiding service defendants

Question: I have a subpoena for a difficult to serve witness. Can the HCSO serve the witness after hours, on holidays or weekends?

Answer: Yes.

The HCSO employs a staff of civilian process servers on duty between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. We do serve after hours, on weekends or on court holidays by uniformed personnel, if staffing and time allow. If you need other service arrangements, request that the issuing judge authorize you to serve the paper, or consult the yellow pages for process servers, private detectives, etc. The HCSO will not serve civil process to bar patrons for safety reasons.

Alternate (substitute or constructive) service

Question: I am having trouble locating and serving a defendant who is actively avoiding service. Your office has been unable to serve him. What can I do?

Answer: State statute 25-517.02 allows you to file a motion for alternate (substitute or constructive) service. If your motion is granted, forward a copy of the order with the writ and we will affect service according to the commands in the order.

Uniformed deputies serving process

Question: Can uniformed deputies assigned to the Patrol Division serve my paper after hours?

Answer: Yes.

The HCSO employs a staff of civilian process servers on duty between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. We do serve after hours, on weekends or on court holidays by uniformed personnel, if staffing and time allow. Again, if you need other service arrangements, have a judge authorize you to serve the paper, or consult the yellow pages for process servers, private detectives, etc.

Subpoenas required for process server appearances

Question: I want a process server to appear for a deposition or a hearing regarding contested service. Will I need a subpoena?

Answer: Yes.

Process servers are not based in the division office, but are on the street serving papers. To prevent frivolous requests for appearances and to afford the same courtesy to process servers as that afforded to other witnesses, division policy requires that a subpoena be issued at least three working days prior to the hearing or deposition.

Obtaining answers to civil process questions

Question: I have a question regarding civil process procedures. Can the HCSO help me?

Answer: Maybe.

The office employs a clerical staff of trained and experienced Civil Process Technicians with numerous years of experience in all aspects of civil process. However, we are not attorneys and we do not give legal advice. Please restrict questions to the office's duties and responsibilities in processing or serving a writ.

Combining writs for simultaneous service

Question: I have a temporary restraining order (tro) and a summons in a marriage dissolution case. Can they be served together?

Answer: Yes.

However, since the tro and the summons each have different return or due dates (10 days or a hearing date for the tro and 20 days from the date of issue for the summons), it is your responsibility to check for service at or near the expiration of the tro. You can then advise us if you want to continue attempts for service on the summons.

Rush or last minute process service

Question: I have a rush summons that must be served immediately because of a hearing date tomorrow. Can the HCSO serve my writ immediately?

Answer: Maybe.

We pride ourselves on delivering the highest quality professional process service. And, we understand that occasional, legitimate emergencies or short notice summons or other process will require rush service. However, the volume of papers handled by the Civil Process Division makes it difficult to accommodate rush requests.

Unfortunately, our experience has been that the majority of rush requests are due to less than professional conduct by an attorney who has failed to adequately prepare or manage his or her case.

Fairness dictates that papers are served in the order they are received. It is unreasonable to expect us to accommodate a request for rush service due to oversight, mismanagement or less than professional conduct by an attorney. With cases docketed for months in advance, there are few legitimate reasons for requesting rush service. Please allow a minimum of three working days for service.

Returns received in the mail

Question: I received a return in the mail from the sheriff's office, what do I do with it?

Answer: You must file the original with the appropriate court.

How to check for service

Question: How do I check for service?

Answer: Telephone our office at 385-5200 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Be sure to have the docket and page of the action, and/or the correct spelling of the defendant's name as it appears on the writ(s). Please call before 4:00 p.m. to avoid the rush of service inquiries between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m.

Defendant information on attachments, executions, etc.

Question: What defendant information must I include for attachments, executions and replevins?

Answer: Include as much descriptive information as possible including first and last name, middle initial, date of birth, current or last known address, social security number, etc. When searching computerized ownership files for property on which to levy, it is possible for defendants with common names to have nearly 1,000 similarities making it virtually impossible to establish ownership. Specific defendant descriptive information is often the only way to positively determine ownership. Including descriptive information as simple as a defendant's middle initial can mean the difference between identifying leviable property and not being able to determine ownership.

Replevin procedures

Question: What procedures are involved when I file for a replevin?

Answer: File the necessary paperwork with the Clerk of the appropriate Court. After we receive the replevin from the Clerk's office, the property will be appraised. You must then post a bond with us for twice the appraised value within 24 hours. If a defendant posts the redelivery bond within 24 hours of the levy and prior to receipt of the plaintiff's undertaking and / or delivery, the property will be returned to the defendant.

Costs and sheriff's fees vary depending upon what is being seized. Towing and storage charges for vehicles for example, and other costs vary widely depending upon the circumstances. State statute 33-120 allows a sheriff's office to demand advance payment for costs associated with executing a replevin. We will estimate these costs and it is your responsibility to pay these costs prior to execution of the replevin. Failure to pay sheriff's fees and costs in advance will result in the replevin being returned unsatisfied for failure of the attorney to pay costs.

County Court writs

Question: Will the Sheriff serve County Court writs in the same manner as District Court writs?

Answer: Other than a few statutorily differences in time required for service and return, the Sheriff's Office will attempt service with the same diligence as District Court writs.