Supreme Court Overhauls Service Rules

By Adrienne Griffis

On June 21, 2018, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued several per curium orders containing significant updates to the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure and associated Administrative Orders. Arkansas litigators should pay particular attention to the following changes, which will affect routine tasks and forms, particularly regarding initial service upon a defendant.

Changes to the Required Form of Pleadings - Effective September 1, 2018

  • All pleadings, motions, and other papers filed with the Court must now include the filing attorney’s name, bar number, mailing address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.
  • The first page of any document submitted for filing must contain a two‑inch margin. If this is not possible, the document must contain a uniform cover page, which will be available for download here.

Changes to Service Requirements - Effective January 1, 2019

  • Defendants may be served at “a place where the defendant resides” instead of the more restrictive “dwelling house or usual place of abode.”
  • Minors 14 years old or younger can no longer be served personally or accept service of process on behalf of another. All minors must be served through a parent or guardian.
  • Only family members age 18 or older can accept service of process on behalf of the defendant. Previously, process could be left with any individual 14 years or older who resided with the defendant.
  • Use of warning orders has been curtailed. The Clerk may now issue warning orders only in cases where personal jurisdiction over the defendant is not necessary. For all other cases, the plaintiff must first seek a court order authorizing service by warning order. Additionally, new requirements for the newspaper in which the notice is published have been added: “a printed publication in the English language of no less than four pages that has been disseminated without interruption at least once a week for the preceding 12 months in the county where the action has been filed, holds a second-class mailing permit, has at least 50-cent paid circulation, and devotes an average of 40 percent of its space to news and information of interest to the general public.” Proof of publication now requires an affidavit from the editor, proprietor, or business manager of the newspaper that states the dates the notice was publishing and attaches a copy of the published notice.
  • The Court is now able to order alternative methods of service when service cannot be obtained using any of the methods provided in the rules, so long as the method(s) are “reasonably calculated to apprise the defendant of the action.” This includes warning orders.
  • The rule provides significantly more detail and expanded options for serving businesses, public entities, and other organizations:
    • Corporations: Any type of corporation must be served through an officer, officer’s secretary or assistant, managing agent, general agent, registered agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to accept service. Officers and agents are not limited to official corporate officers or agents.
    • LLCs: If management is vested in the managers rather than the members, an LLC must be served through a manager or the manager’s secretary or assistant. If the LLC is managed by its members or if there are no managers, it must be served though a member of the LLC or the member’s secretary or assistant.
    • Partnerships: Any type of partnership must be served through any general partner, a general partner’s secretary or assistant, a registered agent, a registered agent’s secretary or assistant, a managing agent of the partnership or his/her secretary or assistant, a general agent of the partnership or his/her secretary or assistant, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to accept service of process. As partners are considered general agents of a general partnership, it appears service can be effected on any partner of a general partnership. For LPs, LLPs, or LLLPs, a general partner is considered an agent of the partnership.
    • Other Unincorporated Associations (when subject to suit): These entities must be served through a registered agent for service of process or through any manager of the association.
    • Trusts: A trust must be served through a trustee of the trust or the trustee’s secretary or assistant.
    • The United States: The U.S. or any agency, officer, or employee thereof must be served in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
    • States and State Agencies: These organizations must be served through the CEO, director, chairman, or any other person designated by appointment or by law to accept service. If the appropriate person is unknown or cannot be located, the Attorney General may be served instead, so long as service is accompanied by an affidavit from a party or attorney confirming those circumstances.
    • Municipal Corporations: These organizations must be served through the mayor, city manager, city administrator, or city clerk.
    • Counties: Counties must be served through the county judge, county administrator, or county clerk. If there is no county clerk, the circuit clerk may be served instead.
    • School Districts: School districts must be served through the president of the board of directors or the superintendent.
    • Other Political Subdivisions: All political subdivisions not otherwise listed must be served through an officer, chairman, or manager of the entity.
    • Public officers and employees: When a public officer or employee is sued in his or her official capacity, a copy of the process must also be sent by certified mail to one of the persons designated for service upon the associated entity pursuant to this rule. For state officials or employees, the copy must be sent to the Attorney General.
  • A party waiving service must now file and serve a written waiver of the sufficiency of process and service, or the waiver is not effective.

Attorneys, take heed of these modifications to prevent adverse consequences due to improper service. A complete list of all modifications to the rules may be found in the per curiam orders issued June 21, 2018. Laypersons, if you have been served with process, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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