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Lawsuit: establishing jurisdiction, serving process

Attorney Joe Richardson with Legal Learning on how to establish jurisdiction and how to put parties to the suit on notice

If you are filing a lawsuit or being sued, getting the word out is everything

For purposes of going to court or participating in a lawsuit, the word “jurisdiction” is best interpreted “authority to force involvement.” For a court to have jurisdiction over a person or party to compel them to participate in Court activities, including depositions, document production, and trial, they must either consent to that jurisdiction or be served personally.

ComptonHerald.com | Joe Richardson

“Legal Learning” is commentary by Joe Richardson, Esq. The column does not constitute legal advice, as individual cases turn on their particular facts.

One who files a lawsuit (a Plaintiff) volunteers to be under the court’s jurisdiction. Defendants are compelled to participate when they are served with the complaint. A person can either be served personally or “sub-served” through an adult in that household (younger for unlawful detainers) after a reasonable number of attempts at personal service.

Corporations are served by bringing legal process to either an officer of the corporation or to the registered agent for service of process, which is stated at the Secretary of State’s website. Non-parties are compelled to participate in court proceedings through service of subpoenas, which demand either an appearance for deposition, production of documents, or attendance at trial.

After jurisdiction is established

Once jurisdiction is established (unless you move to quash, or prevent it), an individual or company must answer a complaint within a certain number of days (party), or appear or produce what/where the subpoena indicates (non-party).

When you are serving process on an individual or company, understand and follow the applicable rules (attorneys can help with this). Service not completed under the rules is no service at all. Sometimes, a defendant in a civil case will make a “special appearance” to contest service. If they are successful, the plaintiff must start over.

Don’t ignore a notice from the court

If you are on the receiving end of service of process, do not ignore a lawsuit or subpoena when served. If there is a deposition, (oral questions asked under oath), there can be flexibility if you let the serving party (who often has legal counsel) know that you need another date. Ignoring personal service related to a court proceeding can have heavy consequences, including sanctions and being held in contempt of court. Plaintiffs often default defendants that do not answer a complaint and obtain a judgment.

Joe Richardson, Esq. is a native son of South-Central Los Angeles, and an attorney practicing tort, contract, and labor, and employment law in Southern California for more than 15 years. He also teaches and speaks on legal issues.


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