Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Finds Marshals Who Bill Extra For Certain Foreclosure Documents Violate State Law

September 21, 2009

            Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today issued a formal legal opinion concluding that state marshals who charge homeowners extra for certain documents included in foreclosure papers are breaking state law.

            Blumenthal found that state statutes limit marshals’ fees for serving foreclosure papers to $30 and prohibits them from charging a separate and additional fee for the lis pendens -- a document providing notice of a pending claim against property. In fact, Blumenthal concluded state law does not require homeowners facing foreclosure to be served with the lis pendens -- only that it be filed on land records.

            Equally important, Blumenthal also concluded that marshals may not split fees or hire other marshals or non-marshals to serve legal documents. Neither may they form LLCs or other corporations. Under law, they have a personal obligation and public trust to individually perform a governmental function.

            Blumenthal called on the state marshal commission to join in stopping this possibly prevalent practice of charging homeowners an additional fee for the lis pendens included in their foreclosure documents, doubling the fees. The commission should discipline marshals and order restitution to consumers if it finds marshals violated state law, he said.

Blumenthal said his own investigation is ongoing and his office will take action if warranted.

“Piling unlawful fees on property owners facing foreclosure adds both insult and injury,” Blumenthal said. “Multiple fees for single service are illegal -- clearly contradicting legislative intent and common sense. My office’s investigation is active and ongoing, and I will consider legal action and other steps to secure refunds, if necessary.”

In his legal opinion, Blumenthal said, “In all instances, the entire package of papers accompanying a lawsuit constitutes the process that is being served and fees may be charged for only one set of papers. There is no precedent and no authority for treating each separate document as a separate process and charging a fee for service of each.

“Similarly in a foreclosure, if a state marshal serves a homeowner with a summons, complaint, numerous court notices specific to foreclosures, and a notice of lis pendens, the state marshal may only charge for one service -- in other words $30. Charging multiple fees for simultaneous service would also contradict the intent of provisions in the fee statute clearly designed to reduce fees where multiple services are made on one person at the same address.

“There is no present statutory authority or need to serve a notice of lis pendens on the property owner at all in a foreclosure proceeding. There is simply no justification for charging a separate service fee for an unauthorized service.”

Blumenthal’s opinion also found that state marshals:

  • May share administrative costs as long as those costs are apportioned to the actual work performed;
  • Can employ non-marshals to do clerical or administrative work.

         Blumenthal issued the opinion at the request of State Marshal Commission

Chairman Herbert J. Shepardson.

View entire Shepardson Opinion - (PDF-94KB)