In Davidson County it was normal practice for the Sheriff’s Department to serve respondents for orders of protection by telephone and never actually hand them a physical copy of the petition. On June 6, 2016, a Davidson County Circuit Judge ruled this practice of “service” via telephone as insufficient.
Orders of Protection are civil actions that, if granted, can have significant legal ramification, including contempt of court or criminal charges. The significance of this order is that if an individual was only served by telephone, and never actually handed a physical paper, and then failed to appear at court, an Order of Protection was granted against them. The June 6th ruling holds that such an Order of Protection would be void because the court did not have personal jurisdiction against the individual who was only served by a telephone call.
This is obviously an issue of great concern, and is expressed in June 6th opinion. In a footnote the Judge goes on to say, “The Court is concerned that if this method of service of process is the current policy of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, the courts of the Twentieth Judicial District may be entering Orders of Protection against respondents in violation of their due process rights…. This Court is fearful that hundreds, if not thousands, of orders of protection and corresponding criminal convictions thereon could be void as the courts never obtained personal jurisdiction over the respondent.”