Have you heard of abuse of process?
Reginald Whitlow, Anthony Sims, and Carnell Alexander are all Michigan men who have been named as the father of children they didn’t conceive. Their lives have been ruined by the legal action taken against them to make them pay for these children.
Under Michigan law, this is legal and State Representative Jim Runestad, a representative of White Lake, is promising new bills to put an end to this practice and protect men who are innocent of not paying child support.
In an Op-ed piece last summer, State Representative Runestad wrote about how process server fraud has to be penalized more harshly. In his opinion, it goes like this:
You, the unsuspecting man, hard at work, are supposed to be served papers notifying you that a woman is asking for child support on a child you did not know you had.
The process server tries a previous residence, or comes when you’re not home.
Because you don’t know what it could be about, or for whatever reason, you don’t respond to the note and, because the process server loses money if he or she declares the papers were not served, he or she lies and says they were.
Eventually, your wages start to get garnished because you weren’t there to defend yourself. In addition, you can’t possibly prove you were or weren’t there on the day the server claims you were served the papers.
Abuse of Process
This is called abuse of process. Or at least, Jim Runestad wants to make it so that servers are more severely penalized if they lie like this.
Abuse of process can also be done by lawyers. Yes. Lawyers are held responsible under the same laws as everyone else too. It’s the use of a civil or criminal process against another person for a purpose other than that for which the process was designed. If a lawyer gets caught doing this, he or she can be subject to discipline.
Here are a few ways a lawyer might abuse the legal process:
- Filing a declaration of service untruthfully. This is that first example: filing a paper untruthfully stating that someone has officially given a notice to another person. This could also be done to intentionally intimidate another person in the case.
- Filing a lawsuit which has no basis in the law, but as a means to get information or force payment out of fear.
- Litigation actions in bad faith meant to delay the course of justice.
What must be proved against the person in question is that he or she willfully used a legal process only for some other purpose. If the lawyer in question used a legal action with malicious intent, but it was for the right purpose and was carried out, abuse of process can’t be proven. In other words, there has to be an ulterior motive, not just the desire to harm the other party in some way.
While abuse of process does sometimes happen purposely, a good lawyer will always change course and make things right if he or she is guilty of this by accident. For example, filing a lawsuit based on misinformation. In the case of fraudulent process servers and the men who have suffered, relief in the form of new laws may be on the way.
If you need help, you will need an experienced lawyer that will diligently fight for your rights. Please call my office today.