New Manner Of Service? Substituted Service At Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies (CMRA)

Substituted Service

Recently enacted California legislation (effective 1/1/2018) adds a new manner of service permissible under California Code of Civil Procedure § 415.20(c), when serving an individual at a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA.)  A CMRA  is a private company—such as The UPS Store (formally Mailboxes Etc.) or FedEx Kinkos—that provides mailbox rental services to individuals and companies.  CMRAs must register with the United States Postal Service to act an an agency to receive delivery of mail of others.

Language has been added to the Code of Civil Procedure to allow substituted service of a lawsuit of an individual defendant on the first and only attempt at a CMRA.  The Process Server Institute recently posted an informative article on this recent amendment.

As stated in the article,  service on an individual defendant generally requires multiple attempts to show due diligence before substituted service may be made. Under the amendment, when serving an individual with an CMRA address CMRA substituted service may be made without due diligence.  Under the new rules the CMRA must comply with another CA Code section –  Business & Professions §17538.5(d).  The author of the article feels, because of the burden of these requirements, the statute is flawed and will lead to confusion.

The rules for legal service can be difficult to understand for a professional.  Self-represented litigants can be overwhelmed when trying to understand the procedures that must be followed for service of process (initial steps for serving the complaint) and service of other documents involved in court cases.

Here are some guides to help you research procedures involved in service of legal papers

Service of Process (California Courts web page)

What Is Service?

 The law says that when you sue a person, partnership, corporation, or the government, you must give formal notice to the other side that you have started the legal process. In the same way, when you are already involved in a case and file papers with the court, you are required to give the other side notice of the paperwork you have filed. The legal way to give formal notice is to have the other side “served” with a copy of the paperwork that you have filed with the court.  This is called “service of process.”

“Service of process” means that the other side must get copies of any paper you file with the court.  In “service of process” a third person (NOT you) is the one who actually delivers the paperwork to the other side.  The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.”

Until the other side has been properly “served,” the judge cannot make any permanent orders or judgments.

Titles available at ACLL

California Civil Procedure Before Trial / CEB Chapter 17,Service of Summons” & Chapter 18,Service of Papers.”  KFC 995 C35 2004 and OnLAW

The Registered Process Server’s Guide to Service of Process in California / Tony Klein.  KFC 1004 P75 K58 2008

Handling Service of Process (Serving Summons in Civil Proceedings) / Mark D. Lipton.  CEB Action Guide  KFC 1003 A36 2016 and OnLAW

International Service of Process /American Bar Association.  K 7637 I57

For a detailed discussion of the new amendment and its possible problems, read the full article at Process Server Institute’s site –


California Judicial Branch Fillable Court Forms – Our Print Mystery Solved

The Black Streaks (my least favorite Emo band)

Black streaks or smudges started to manifest on some of the paper copies of fillable court forms printed at ACLL.  California legal system participants, ever have this problem?  You are using the California Judicial Branch’s website to complete one of the many California Judicial Council’s fillable forms.  No problem entering the information.  Looks great on the screen – nice and clear.  You print a paper copy for the court or your file and on the page appears large black smears (see image.)  What goes?

Without any warning, some of our patrons, who use the Alameda County Law Library‘s public computer network to complete their Judicial Council forms, started to experience these smudges after spending time and effort editing the forms online. Their hard work was ruined.  The reason this problem popped up remained a mystery to the Reference Desk staff.  It was not the network and printing software nor a problem with the court’s website.  We had the Alameda County IT Department dig into the problem.  Thanks to ITD’s Ernest, the mystery has been solved.

It turns out it was caused by a recent Adobe Reader software upgrade.  The court site recommends that people use the freely available Adobe Reader software to edit the fillable forms.   Recent changes to the software caused problems for users of a number of different internet sites’ fillable forms.

The solution

If you have experienced this black smudge/smear problem on the California courts’ or other websites, here is a solution –

Simply stated – In Adobe Reader > Select Edit > Select Preferences > Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list > then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this setting option.

Not so simply stated step-by-step instructions –

  • You will need to reset a default setting for Adobe Reader.  (The court website recommends you download the free Adobe Reader to edit the online forms.)
  • Your internet browser’s search screen will present different options and icons in different displays so the following steps are general advice only.
  • The court’s website has information on how to use its fillable forms (including downloading the forms to Adobe Reader) – California Judicial Branch,  Forms – How to Fill
  • When using some of the internet browsers, the form first appears in a Viewer. Once you have your selected form on your browser screen in Viewer mode, you will want to bring it up or change it to a fillable form.  Look for the icon or option to download.  When using the Firefox browser it looks like this – 
  • Click on the icon or select the download option.  The form will reappear on your screen with the editable fields highlighted in blue.  Once you have the document in Adobe Reader (AND BEFORE TYPING ANY INFORMATION) you proceed with the needed changes.
  • Uncheck the Enabled Protected Mode at startup box within Adobe Acrobat Reader that is located under the Edit tab using the following steps:

  • Select Edit
  • Select Preferences  on the drop-down menu that appears.
  • Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this option.

Why this setting causes the streaks when the document is printed remains a mystery but not one for which the answer needs to be discovered.  Best left to the tech geeks.  I guess you could say it is the importance of knowing Ernest.

The California Judicial Branch’s web pages do not support the use of all browsers and their PDF readers.  More software companies are developing their own internet website browsing and viewing software.  For more information on using the Judicial Council’s PDF forms, see Viewing PDF Files


California Court Interpreters – How To Find

In California, the most diverse state in the country:

  • Over 200 languages are spoken.
  • 44% of households speak a language other than English.
  • Nearly 7 million speak English “less than very well.”
  • 19% of Californians cannot access the court system without language help.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2015)

Court interpreters

The California court system is aware of the diversity that exists within our state and is taking steps to provide services to all.  The California Judicial Council has a web page that allows you to search for a language interpreter who is in good standing with the court systems.

The search function available on the site allows you to search by language (including American Sign Language) and county.  The complete list of languages falls into two categories – certified and registered.

The results list provides name and contact information for the professional.

Use the Judicial Council Master List to search for court certified, registered and enrolled interpreters who are in good standing with the Judicial Council.  Interpreters included on the Master List have passed the required exams and officially applied with the Judicial Council.  For more information about the certification/registration process refer to California Government Code Sections 68561- 68562.

Written documents

Government Code §27293 permits California county clerks to certify documents translated into English only if the document has been translated by American Translators Association certified translators, California Certified Court Interpreters, or California Registered Interpreters.  California Certified Court or Registered Interpreters are authorized in a judicial proceeding to interpret orally the verbal content of documents, but the Judicial Council does not otherwise test or certify an interpreter’s written translation skills.

Complete information can be found on the California Judicial Council’s website at

Counter To Courtroom – Court Procedures Outlined – Resources From The Judicial Council Of California

Counter to Courtroom

Trying to familiarize yourself with procedures used by the California Superior courts?  The Judicial Council of California has a selection of materials used for court staff training available on their web site.  The documents cover, in separate titles, procedures relating to case matters for civil, criminal, probate, traffic, family and juvenile proceedings.

The titles, identifiable by a subtitle – Counter to Courtroom, are selections from the Council’s Court Clerk Training Institute reference materials.  These items are close to being textbooks for the procedures for the California courts – giving an insider’s view to forms and procedures, even going beyond the detailed information that can be found in Nolo titles or a title, such as, Litigation by the Numbers.

The information is practical, not discussing legal theories, but the procedural steps that are required at different points of California court litigation.  The information is provided in summary outline form.  California Code and Rules of Court citations are provided for reference.

The materials also include:

  • flowcharts of court procedures
  • a glossary of legal terms used in court procedures
  • discussion and examples of Judicial Council forms
  • checklists for use by court staffers
  • charts summarizing types of filings, example – motions and their purposes – “Motions” in Civil Procedures: Counter to Courtroom, page 32traffic-infractions-flowchart-clerk-training-institute

Alameda County Law Library has added print versions to the collection.  The volumes are currently on the New Titles cart.

You can also find PDF versions using the URLS listed below next to the title.

The Court Clerk Training Institute

Remember that individual courts may have adopted their own local procedures.  Check with the clerks of the court for confirmation.


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Briefs For Appeals Pending In California Courts – Researching Public Employee Pension Cases

Last week, the California Supreme Court issued a grant-and-hold-order in the pension case of Marin Association of Public Employees v. Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (S237460).  The court has decided to wait for a decision in the appeal of an Alameda County-centric case – a different pension case — Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association (A141913) or “pending further order of the court.”

Six of the briefs for the Alameda County case are available for reading and downloading at Alameda County Law Library on our public computers through our access to the California Public Law Library Briefs Service.  Four of the documents filed in the Marin Association case are also available on the database.  Visit the Reference Desk in Oakland or Hayward for help with accessing the briefs.  ACLL is one of the select California county law libraries having access to this resource.

There is a delay in the upload of the text of California appellate briefs to the free database.  You can call the Oakland Reference Desk at 510-208-4832 to check on availability before making a trip to the library.

Grant-and-hold order

An information discussion of the procedural aspects of the not frequently used grant-and-hold order can be found on the At the Lectern blog in a post – “Supreme Court Case on Hold for Court of Appeal Decision in Another Case.”

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Warriors’ Arena Litigation – Mission Bay Alliance v. Hawgood – Petition For Writ of Mandate – Alameda County Superior Court

Mission Bay Arena Lawsuit

A suit was filed on December 17, 2015 in Alameda County Superior Court concerning the proposed San Francisco arena complex for the professional basketball team, Golden State Warriors, currently an East BayFeatured Image -- 2901 team, as well as, the NBA champions.

You can view, using the following link, a copy of the Petition for Writ of Mandate filed in Mission Bay Alliance, Jennifer Wade, and Bruce Spaulding v. Sam Hawgood, in his capacity as Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, Super Ct. Alameda County, Dec. 17, 2015,  No. RG15797095. Mission_Bay_Alliance_writofmandate_121715_acsuperior_warriors_cn_rg15797095