For creditors who need help on the New York bankruptcy defense side or those who have filed a bankruptcy themselves but need to initiate an adversary proceeding against creditors or the trustee, it is in fact possible to effect “service of process” via the U.S. postal system. Usually service of process, the system of giving clear notice to someone that you’re suing them, relies on the original method of in-person service, but there are others. In many states, though, service of process either doesn’t allow service by mail or makes it difficult. For instance, New York civil courts allow plaintiffs to use the postal system for distant defendants—if the parties being sued consent, which can be a big hassle if the paperwork isn’t returned properly or in a timely fashion.
Ultimately, the American justice system doesn’t like the idea of sending lawsuits by mail. The reason isn’t so much distrust of the mail system but a commitment to ensuring that people who are sued have no excuse for getting out of it. Bankruptcy, however, is different because it’s always been a federal judicial system, and Congress doesn’t want the bankruptcy courts dealing with parties claiming they were improperly served and therefore can’t be brought to court.
As a result, Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7004(b) authorizes service by mail on numerous parties with some common sense caveats. For instance, infants (the legal term for people under 18) and incompetents can’t be served by mail, but their legal guardians can be. Corporations, governments, trustees, and of course, debtors, can also be informed of a bankruptcy lawsuit by mail. Rule 7004(h) sets out the requirements for suing a depository institution by certified mail and the exceptions.
So if you (or your designated agents) receive a letter from a bankruptcy court notifying you of an adversary proceeding against you, you’d better take it seriously because it’s just as valid as if a process server knocked on your door and handed you the lawsuit to your face. The reason this is important is that Rule 7012(a) gives most respondents in such proceedings only thirty days to serve an answer. That might mean scrambling to find a New York bankruptcy lawyer to defend your interests.
For answers to more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced bankruptcy attorney in Brooklyn NY Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.