The story about "Seattle's least-favorite process server" by Seattle Weekly writer Laura Onstot takes on an unlikely legal subject, describes an odious guy, imparts useful consumer-protection info — and makes the whole thing sound like the basis for a very good movie. (Maybe starring Mickey Rourke, minus the Wrestler muscles.)
In setting out to describe Ron Belec, Onstot did a pile of reporting, then crafted a straightforward profile with carefully balanced coverage.
In case you've never had the pleasure of meeting a process server, here's what they do, courtesy of Onstot:
Process servers are the first step in any civil legal action. Under Washington state law, when you file a lawsuit against someone, be it divorce, an auto accident claim, or an attempt to collect on a debt, you have to physically get a copy of the suit into their hands. Servers are tasked with delivering those documents.
Naturally, some of the recipients of this paper are not happy campers. Many of those who received service from Ron Belec are (take your pick here) outraged, scared witless, demanding he be sanctioned. This is due to Belec's very aggressive techniques. Here's an example, with edits for length and obscenites:
Belec recalls knocking on her door, announcing he had papers for her, and receiving no response. Whereupon, he says, he returned to his apartment, took out his dentures, and had a couple of drinks. The woman in the apartment recalls the evening differently. She says Belec banged so hard that the door hinges started rattling. She refused to open up and instead called 911. According to a police report, Belec greeted the cops [with a combative epithet not usually said to police by any sober and rational individual]...They told him they were there investigating a harassment call. [A repeat of the earlier epithet]. The cops returned to the woman's apartment where, once more, there was a knock at the door. When one of the officers opened it, Belec threw the papers inside and walked off. Mission accomplished.
Onstot could have been forgiven if she'd confined her piece to the colorful Belec, but she did readers one better by explaining just how process servers work in Washington. For example, it makes sense, once you think about it, that state law protects process servers from prosecution from trespassing. But add that to their access to all sorts of personal information about the recipient of their service, throw in some big attitude (as in Belec's case) and you've got potential for serious abuse.
The timing of this piece is especially good, as the dicey economy means more legal wrangling, and therefore more process service. Certain professions seem to flourish in tough times — I've seen an ad on Portland's Craigslist for "repo spotters." Repo men (and a very few women) are always around, employed by collection agencies and auto dealerships to yank vehicles out of driveways and parking lots when loans are long overdue. You know things are really bad when they're so busy they need "spotters" to scour the city for the vehicles, tip them off, then play lookout.
Maybe I should be grateful for any signs of job growth these days, but it's not easy.
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