Saturday, July 21, 2018

Civil Procedure: He Went To Jared's

Like many people I know I have been fixated upon the Trump Russia scandal, devouring the news in a way that I haven't done since I was a teenage paperboy during the Watergate era. I have become fascinated with some of the minutiae of the story.  I could spend hours reading up on Michael Cohen and Michael Avenatti and their respective law practices.   

            But the story that resonates with me this week involves the lawyers for the Democratic National Committee and their problems serving a summons on Jared Kushner in the case Democratic National Committee v. The Russian Federation et al..  While Kushner's lawyers say that he is "easy to find" (apparently since he works at the White House), DNC lawyers have stated in court that they have tried to serve the summons three times at Kushner's New York apartment, that the Secret Service has rebuked their attempts to serve him in Washington (what issues does that raise?) and that their attempts to serve him by certified mail have literally been returned.  

            I think that this was interesting enough to go back and review the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and see what they say about service of process of a summons in a lawsuit:

FRCP 4(e) SERVING AN INDIVIDUAL WITHIN A JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE UNITED STATES. Unless federal law provides otherwise, an individual—other than a minor, an incompetent person, or a person whose waiver has been filed—may be served in a judicial district of the United States by: 
(1) following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made; or 
(2) doing any of the following:
(A) delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual personally;
(B) leaving a copy of each at the individual’s dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there; or 
 (C) delivering a copy of each to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.

 All lawyers have war stories about the occasional difficulties of getting a summons or subpoena served.  It is one of the many things they don't tell you about in law school. It's a small but important detail that can derail an entire lawsuit.  I have had to come up with ingenious ways to get people served on numerous occasions.  

It does seem strange that an individual as high profiled as Jared Kushner would go to such great lengths to avoid getting served with process was surprised that the Judge did not give the DNC  some relief if in fact the allegations they made regarding service is true. The Judge denied the motion to allow service of proves by first class mail (at least for now) stating “ Service (of process) is not intended to be a game for the serving party or the party to be served” adding “the Court is confident that the DNC’s counsel can contact Kushner’s counsel; and arrange a mutually convenient mans to effectuate service”. Given what we have seen so far, this will be interesting.