Feathered Bastard

Where's Seth Rogen When You Need Him? Photo Enforcement Tickets Tossed in Tucson Because Process Server Flaked

You may recall the Bird item I did a few weeks back that involved a process server who dressed up like a UPS delivery guy to serve a Redflex ticket. The situation brought to mind Seth Rogen's stoner/process-server character in the film Pineapple Express who dons all kinds of disguises to successfully serve subpoenas and whatnot to individuals.

But at least Rogen's character did actually serve his legal papers, unlike a rogue process server in Tucson who apparently never served the photo enforcement tickets for red lights and speeding that he said he had. According to reports in the Arizona Daily Star and elsewhere, Tucson City Court staff were getting complaints from people receiving default judgments and notices that their driver's licenses were suspended. That's what happens, you see, if the process server properly serves you, but you continue to blow off the ticket.

(BTW, our friends at Camerafraud.com are all over this one like a seersucker suit in a torrential downpour. So check 'em out.)

An investigation pointed to one process server working for Hawkins and E-Z Messenger Legal Support Providers. At least 150 cases will likely be dismissed, says the Daily Star report. Another 865 could be thrown out as well.

"We're not exactly happy about it," said American Traffic Solutions spokesman Josh Weiss. "That said, it's clear this appears to be one lone individual, who likely will go to jail as a result."

Weiss said ATS, which has the contract with Tucson, has already received a letter of apology from Ron Ezell, the President/CEO of Hawkins and E-Z Messenger. And after speaking with Ezell, I have to admit that he sounds genuinely chagrined by the situation. His company claims to be the largest in the state, with 85 servers working for nearly every legal entity in Arizona, including the Attorney General's office. Ezell told me he's been in this process server game for more than 37 years, and he insists this is the first time his company has had a problem this severe.

"With all this photo enforcement stuff, there are a lot of papers," he explained. "And this guy did not serve the paper. I'd be surprised if he even went to the address. It's sad that this one guy has caused all this commotion."

Ezell told me that he's in the process of hiring 30 to 40 more servers to keep up with the new ATS/Redflex business. He states that all of his servers are his employees, not subcontractors. But they are still paid on commission. The commission he pays the servers for each photo enforcement ticket delivered? $10 a pop.

Process servers have to pass a test, said Ezell, as well as authorize a full background check through DPS and the FBI before becoming officers of the superior court. He said he makes it clear to his people that, "you just don't lie on your affidavits because you're signing under penalty of perjury."

The Tucson Police Department's Web site states that a red-light violation in Tucson is $280. For speeding, the ticket is $151 if you're 10 mph over the posted speed limit. As the tickets affected were for both red-lights and speeding, the city could be out anywhere from $151K to $280K. And then there are administrative costs on top of that. And the aggravation of those who had their licenses suspended because of this.

But the silver lining is that some of those who were caught by the cameras will skate. And that sounds like a beautiful thing to me, even with the annoyance of a temporarily suspended license.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons