Attorney General: Dennis F. Kerrigan, Jr. Chairman, State Marshal Commission, Formal Opinion 2007-019, Attorney General State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

September 21, 2007

Dennis F. Kerrigan, Jr., Esq.

Chairman

State Marshal Commission
765 Asylum Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

 

Dear Chairman Kerrigan:

 

As Chairman of the State Marshal Commission, you have requested a formal opinion of the Attorney General as to whether state marshals are prohibited from participating in a business entitled Connecticut Service Network, LLC, and what action, if any, our office would recommend to the Commission concerning such a business.

 

According to the materials provided to us, this business entity would establish a network of state marshals who would pay an annual fee to belong, collect legal process from officers of the court and distribute it to individual marshals, along with necessary copies for service of process.  The marshals would then report service back to the entity on software supplied by the network, for which the marshal would pay a fee.

 

Until recently, the service of legal process in Connecticut was performed by deputy sheriffs acting under a constitutional officer, the High Sheriff of each county in Connecticut.  The sheriffs system in Connecticut was abolished by constitutional amendment effective November 30, 2000.  The process-serving functions formerly performed by sheriffs are now performed by state marshals.  The service of process is a sovereign governmental function subject to control and oversight by the Connecticut General Assembly.  Kelly v. Kelly, 83 Conn. 274 (1910).  Although state marshals are "independent contractors" (Conn. Gen. Stat. §  6-38a), state marshals are appointed by a statutorily empowered state agency, the State Marshal Commission, which has the authority to appoint marshals, "establish professional standards, including training requirements and minimum fees for execution and service of process," and remove state marshals for cause.  Conn. Gen. Stat. §  6-38b.

 

State Marshals have the statutory duty to "receive each process directed to such marshal when tendered, execute it promptly and make true return thereof." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 6-32. (emphasis added). State marshals are authorized “to provide legal execution and service of process compensated on a fee for service basis, determined, subject to any minimum rate promulgated by the state, by agreement with an attorney, court or public agency requiring execution or service of process.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 6-38a. 

 

The procedure for serving legal process is articulated in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-50.  That section in relevant part provides:

 

Sec. 52-50.  Persons to whom process shall be directed. (a) All process shall be directed to a state marshal, a constable or other proper officer authorized by statute, or, subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, to an indifferent person.  A direction on the process “to any proper officer” shall be sufficient to direct the process to a state marshal, constable or other proper officer. (emphasis added).

 

This statute unequivocally requires all process to be directed to a state marshal, a constable, or other proper officer authorized by statute, or subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of § 52-50, an indifferent person.  The summons form itself is a signed order from an officer of the court and directed “to any proper officer authorized by statute.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-45b (emphasis added).

 

Quite simply, there is no statute authorizing a private business entity such as you described to have legal process directed to such an entity.  Such an entity is not a "state marshal, constable or other proper officer."  Section 52-50. Nor is there any statutory authority for such an entity to collect legal process from officers of the court, to assign or otherwise direct in any manner service of process to or by state marshals, to establish a "network" of state marshals, or to collect any fees from state marshals related to the legal execution and service of process.   

 

The operations of a business entity such as you described, and the actions of state marshals who may participate in such a business entity, are completely inconsistent with the service of process system established by the General Assembly.  Such an arrangement would intrude upon and usurp the statutory duties and responsibilities of state marshals and the State Marshal Commission, and would thus be in violation of  Conn. Gen. Stat. §  6-32, 6-38a,6-38b,6-38d,6-38f, 52-50 and 52-45b. 

 

Further, Section 2 of Public Act 07-69, effective October 1, 2007, states: "A state marshal shall not be charged any fee by a private entity for performing such state marshal's statutory duties."  According to its legislative history, Public Act 07-69 prohibits private business entities from charging state marshals any annual contractual fee or any fee for utilizing private business entities' computer systems:  "if there is a fee that would be essentially charged to the marshal by that private business entity for the opportunity to serve that process, or for facilitating that service, it would be prevented by this bill."  Remarks of Senator McDonald, 50 Conn. S. Proc., pt. 81 2007 Sess. 2457 (May 16, 2007).  As of October 1, 2007, therefore, the fees charged state marshals by the Connecticut Service Network to join its network and to use its computer systems will be expressly illegal.

 

We recognize that many State Marshals use third parties to perform various services, such as copying of documents.  We do not believe such delegation of duties by state marshals is improper, provided they are performed at the direction of the Marshal, who remains responsible for the accuracy of the work performed.

 

We recommend you advise all State Marshals that legal process must be directed to them by the attorney or officer of the court signing the summons and that it is illegal for them to participate in the type of business entity you have described.

 

Very truly yours,

 

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL

ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

 


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Content Last Modified on 9/24/2007 3:08:03 PM