The other day I got a call from a civil sheriff who wants to serve me with some papers. These are motion papers I received in PDF form weeks ago. What’s more, the papers don’t directly involve my client. It’s nice to keep informed of these ancillary proceedings, but I don’t need the sheriff’s office to deploy men to help me do this. Remember: I already have the PDF copy of the motion, which came to me via The Internet.
The problem I’m describing is required by Louisiana rules of procedure. The rule made sense before the wide-spread adoption of fax machines, email, and the Internet. We may still need sheriffs to serve subpoenas on non-attorneys. But attorneys are officers of the court and requiring sheriffs to serve pleadings on them is needlessly cumbersome and expensive.
Why do we keep doing it?
Answer: because it creates work for sheriffs. And the sheriffs know how to lobby their local legislators to make sure that work doesn’t dry up. If it weren’t for that the rule would have been changed a long time ago. Remember this the next time you hear someone say we live in a “civilized society.” Truth is, many people like things the old fashioned way: inefficient is fine as long as it helps them.
And the next time you see a movie about aliens invading the earth to do us harm remember this: if this ever really happened we’d have no shot. We aren’t even trying solving the obvious problems that technology can help us with. What chance would we have against an advanced race that has solved the mind-boggling problem of inter-stellar travel?
None. Zero. Zilch.
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