Standing for the Rights of Process Servers
America’s legislative system works to protect all innocent parties, which includes special efforts to protect civil servants like mailmen, fire fighters, and process servers. In Florida, for example, assaulting a process server is considered a felony charge. Statute 843.01 declares that any person who knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes a person legally authorized to execute process by threatening or implementing violence will be guilty of a felony in the third degree. New York recently made legislative changes to protect their own process servers as well.
However, it is unfortunately common for defendants to falsely report misbehavior by the process server, leaving the server in a tricky situation to prove his innocence. Douglas Dendinger, a process server in Louisiana, knows this well. Back in 2012, Dendinger was tasked with serving a police officer with papers for a police brutality lawsuit. At the very last minute, Dendinger followed his gut and instructed his wife and nephew to videotape the encounter outside of Washington Parish Courthouse.
It turns out that the cell phone videos saved Dendinger from serving many years in prison. Former Bogalusa police officer Chad Cassard accused Dendinger of slapping him in the chest with the lawsuit in 2012, and two court prosecutors claimed to have witnessed the altercation. Dendinger was swiftly charged with battery, witness intimidation, and obstruction of justice, and it was his word against a police officer and two prosecutors.
That is, until the cell phone videos from his wife and nephew were turned in to the courts. The videos clearly show that Dendinger never touched Cassard, and Dendinger’s case was dismissed. However, Cassard, then-DA Walter Reed, and the two now-former prosecutors, Julie Knight and Leigh Anne Wall, all found themselves in severe legal trouble after Dendinger’s release. The video that made Dendinger a free man also proved that the four of them colluded for malicious prosecution and false witness statements.
Dendinger filed a civil rights suit due to the mistreated he endured, and his story has become a symbol of the importance of fair treatment toward all process servers who are simply trying to do their job.