On May 29, 2002, the Governor signed Senate Bill 2413/House Bill 2570, sponsored by Senator Joe Haynes and Representative Frank Buck. The bill was subsequently enacted as 2002 Public Chapter 794 and becomes effective on July 1 of this year. The act completely revises the sheriffs’ fee statute found in 8-21-901. It combines many specific individual fees into fewer major categories and provides generally for fee increases. The act also amends Title 16 to establish new procedures for service of process in General Sessions Court and allows service of process by private individuals. These changes are designed for the most part to mirror the Rules of Civil Procedure that apply in Circuit and Chancery Court. As this act is a comprehensive re-write of the entire fee statute and the statutes governing service of process for general sessions courts, it is not possible to summarize all the changes in this brief spotlight. A copy of the full text of the act can be obtained through the state legislature’s website (http://www.legislature.state.tn.us) or by contacting CTAS.
Section by Section Summary:
Section 1 of the act repeals the existing statute T.C.A. § 8-21-901 (the Sheriff’s fees statute) and re-writes it, simplifying the fee structure, eliminating population classifications which makes the fees the same in all counties, modernizing the language of the fees and providing for increases in the new fee structure. New language in the act provides that, for the purpose of the service of process fee, all garnishments are considered original garnishments and the sheriff is entitled to the new fee for each garnishment served. Prior law limited the amount of fees that could be charged on subsequent garnishments. Language was also added to clarify that fees for service of process apply
separately per each person served. The act also earmarks the revenue from the sheriff’s data processing fee for computerization of the sheriff’s office.
Section 2 of the act repeals and re-writes T.C.A. §§ 16-15-901 through 16-15-905 to establish procedures for service of process in General Sessions Court. The newly enacted section 16-15-901 provides that, upon the filing of civil warrants, writs and other papers, the clerk of general sessions court shall issue the required process and cause it to be delivered to such person authorized to serve process as may be designated by the person filing the papers or such person’s attorney. This means the parties or their lawyers, not the clerks, make the determination of who serves papers. The person designated to serve process must be at least 18 years of age and can not be a party to the litigation. This authorization for private individuals to serve process in general sessions court applies to civil warrants, attachments or other leading process used to initiate an action in general sessions court, and subpoenas or summons. Other forms of process would still be served by the sheriff or constable. The sheriff or constable would also still serve process on those items that could be served by a private individual if no one is designated by the litigant or his or her attorney. Where private process servers are used, the act provides that a court, in its discretion, may award recovery of fees for service of process as a part of the judgement rendered in the case but such fees cannot exceed the fees authorized for sheriffs or constables.
The newly revised section 16-15-902 establishes procedures for return of process. The new section 16-15-903 establishes procedures for service of process upon defendants in this state while 16-15-904 sets the procedures for service upon defendants outside of the state. Section 16-15-905 allows for constructive service in those cases where statutes permit such service. For the most part, these rules regarding service of process follow the procedures currently in place in circuit and chancery courts under the rules of civil procedure.
Section 3 of the act establishes the effective date for the new law as July 1, 2002. Therefore, after that date, clerks for general sessions court should begin collecting the sheriff’s fees in accordance with the new statute. At that time, the new statutes regarding service of process in general sessions court take effect as well.
As a final note, although this summary has discussed fees for sheriffs and constables, the law provides that officers of the highway patrol or other law enforcement personnel that may serve criminal process are entitled to the same fees listed in T.C.A. § 8-21-901 for sheriffs and constables and such officers will receive the increased fees as well. See T.C.A. §§ 40-25-103 and 55-5-114.
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