The names in this case really are made up as I don’t need Psycho Suzi looking for me in retaliation, as she is one pissed off babe, as you’ll see.
This was the summer 2011, on the golf course, skipping work as usual, just made a par and my cell phone rings. Hopefully this phone call was not going to interfere with my game; I didn’t want to leave the course right away with only two holes to go.
I say, ”Hello” and wait with anticipation of what this could be at 6 PM at night.
“Yes, my name is Brad Thomas. I was referred to you by a law firm in Sacramento and I kind of have an emergency”.
I think to myself, Oh God, it’s a restraining order, usually is, especially when they say they have an emergency and there is anguish in their voice. Here we gooooooo ---
Brad has an ex-girlfriend that is harassing him, calling all hours of the day and night, driving by his place throwing rocks through his windows and driving her car up on his lawn, ruining the landscaping. She won’t leave him alone. AND to top it off, he doesn’t know where she is, or where she is living.
A Restraining Order is the worst kind of legal paper you can serve. Restraining Orders are all about stopping someone else from doing something you don’t like such as “I am going to burn your house down”, or “I am going to continue to throw rocks at your windows”, “I am going to keep slandering you on the internet”, “I am going to take our kids out of the state even if you don’t like it” etc. A person who wants a Restraining Order has to visit the courthouse, fill out the court forms stating their problem, in triplicate probably, then a judge has to sign it, then a court clerk has to file it, then the person has to find someone like me to serve it. A judge will not sign a restraining order unless you can show actual physical abuse of yourself or your property; you can’t say “I think my boyfriend is going to beat me up”. You have to say, “My boyfriend beat me up and I have 20 stitches in my face”. You cannot exaggerate or tell lies when applying for a Restraining Order. The action against you has to have already been done in most cases. Whatever you are trying to get another person to stop doing, he or she has to have already done it.
Sorry but the law is not in your favor. You have some wacko hurting you or your property and you have to pay the fees and submit all the paperwork, then get a judge’s signature, only then can you serve the person. Only after service of this Restraining Order is given to the psycho, and if the psycho then violated the “cease and desist” order, the police will then get involved, usually not until then. I am only telling you this from my personal experience, maybe the police can get involved prior to the restraining order but even then, a Restraining Order has to be served on the psycho to get any permanent law enforcement or legal conviction on this.
It is not uncommon to walk into a courthouse anytime on a Friday or Monday morning, and see long lines of people filling out forms, writing checks for court fees, feeling frustrated, and then waiting all day for a judge to sign the paperwork. Usually, if a person is there on a Friday, they feel something bad is going to happen over the weekend and they want to head it off at the pass, and convince the judge it is serious enough for his signature. Mondays are for people wanting a Restraining Order against someone who actually DID something over the weekend. You spend hours at the court, then usually around 4 PM, the clerk calls your name, then you see if the judge agreed with you, if so, he signed the order, if not, you have to wait until you get beat up. I am not an advocate of this kind of judicial thinking or policy, I think it’s ridiculous. But you hear about it on TV all the time, such as a woman warning the police that something is going to happen but they tell her there is nothing they can do until something DID happen.
Remember, it’s not our (process servers) fault people cannot get along. It’s a job to be done if you accept it and want to work for this individual. Before I take on a case like this, I get a lot of information from the person about what his situation is, who really is the crazy one, him or his girlfriend? Is he going to call me day and night or is he going to leave me alone and let me do my job. If they pass the test on the cell phone, cool, if they don’t I tell them I am actually on vacation and give them someone else to call.
You have to charge the client triple fees because you are going to eat up the first third of your fee in emotional distress, yours and the clients. Taking on this kind of case means: the client calls you ALL the time on your cell phone even when you tell them your plan and the exact time you will call them with an update. It’s a lot of hand holding. If you don’t control them to the inch of their lives, you will receive a call at 11 PM waking you up. “Sorry to bother you, I just need to know what’s happening”. It’s all emotion for these clients; this restraining order consumes their whole lives. Don’t get me wrong, I have empathy for them (not at 11:00 PM at night though), but just be in this frame of mind when you accept the job.
Back to Brad, he is a general contractor, has his own business, just built a house he really likes in a new and upcoming suburb near Sacramento. He dated this psycho Suzi for a few weeks, couldn’t take it anymore, broke it off and Suzi obviously doesn’t want closure on this.
Brad’s Restraining Order was signed by a judge, no problem. Brad has already been harassed, has suffered property damage and monetary damage as well replacing the house windows and shrubs..
After discussing the “triple” fee with Brad, he said no problem. Ok, I am in. Psycho Suzi here I come.
One thing about cases that have a lot of agitation, upset or and disturbance, you need to stay focused. Do not get involved in the person’s emotional state, stay focused and the most important thing: The more difficult the situation is, the lighter approach you take. An example:
I needed to serve a Restraining Order on a guy who had a lot of guns and threatened to kill his wife. She got the Restraining approved because he recently pointed one of his guns at her. This was enough for a judge to hear.
I did not knock on his door, duh. I waited for him to leave his house in the early morning to go to work. I wait until he is approaching his car and then I approached him instantly saying Good Morning. He stops and I raise my arms saying “don’t shoot”. He starts laughing. That broke the ice, I explained the Restraining Order to him, and he stated he would attend the hearing and explain to the judge that it was all a misunderstanding. My job is not to listen to their side, or get involved in what is true or false about cases, my job is to effect service by sizing people up, predicting their reaction, and using the right approach to get the job done.
Knowing what approach to take with people you are serving comes from experience, knowing how to predict their behavior comes from experience, but when you have this down, your work is easy, you get quick results and you have no stress to manage.
Back to Brad, I met up with him at Starbucks and got the papers (Restraining Orders) from him and he gave me a picture of psycho Suzi. The only thing he knew about her was that she might be a subcontractor for a local Interior Design business. Brad seemed like a won’t-rip-me-off kind of guy, so I told him he could pay me when I was done, then he handed me a partial payment of $80.00 for the hell of it. Awesome.
I never tell clients what my exact plan is, because to be honest, I don’t always know right then and there. People you need to serve come in different forms, shapes, sizes and emotional states needing different approaches. To serve psycho Suzi I had to find her, so this was the first step.
Seems complicated? Well, this is where you take the light approach not to mention the simplest approach. You trap her.
The next day, I called the Interior Design business and wanted to make an appointment with them to redesign the window treatments in my office (I wish). Suzi would not have answered the phone because she is a sub-contractor so I was free to say whatever I wanted. I made an time and date over the phone telling the appointment setter I was referred by so and so and asked if Suzi was still working there? The designer who answered the phone said yes, then I immediately said that’s great but any designer will do. (We don’t want Suzi to know we specifically asked for her and tip her off, we want to do this right, even if it takes a few appointments to nail this broad). She said she didn’t know who was available to come Friday at 3:00 PM but someone would be there. I gave her an address of a commercial building with several offices (not my address or Suite #). I only had to give her my first name and gave her a phony work number. When I give a phony number, I only change one number from my real number, that way if I need to be in touch again, it would appear they wrote it down wrong.
On a sunny Friday afternoon @ 3:00 PM, I was waiting at the designated commercial building in the parking lot. Since I had a picture of her and a description of the car she drives, I would know it’s her when she pulled in. There was only one driveway in the complex. If it wasn’t her, but another designer, we would go through the motion of pretending that we had an work emergency and needed to reschedule.
At 2:57 PM, as luck would have it, Suzi pulls up in her nice blue Honda. I wave at her and she pulls into a parking space. She rolls down the window and says “Hello”. I say hello back, and then tell her, with a nice but straight face, that she is actually being served with a Restraining Order from Brad Thomas. I show her on the papers the section about the court hearing date, time and what court address she is to go to. She instantly goes into bitch mode and tries to roll the window up on my arm almost catching it. I throw the papers through the window and they fall on her lap. I then start walking towards the front door of one of the buildings and while walking I hear her gun the engine and peel out of the parking lot.
I don’t take Restraining Orders lightly, I figure out the safest and fastest way to serve them, then get it done.
A permanent restraining order was granted against Psycho Suzi, and our client never heard from her again. And, if she ever wanted to find me, she couldn’t.
Sorry, wrong number.