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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The city of Clarksdale in Mississippi sued BellSouth Telecommunications, a Georgia company doing business in Mississippi, over a contractual dispute. The case was filed in state court on Dec. 23, 2003. On Dec. 24, 2003, the city’s process server went to the offices of Prentice-Hall, which serves as BellSouth’s registered agent for service of process, in a multitenant office building. A sign on the door said that the offices were closed for the holidays from Wednesday, Dec. 24, to Friday, Dec. 26, and that the office would reopen on Monday, Dec. 29. The process server was directed by a third party to an office where papers for Prentice-Hall could be dropped off. The process server left the complaint with the other papers in the inbox. The papers the process server dropped off showed the date of filing as being Dec. 23, but did not show the date of service. Five days later, the process server filed a return of service with the state court saying that service of process had taken place on Dec. 24 by personal service on Prentice-Hall. BellSouth filed an answer and a notice of removal to federal district court on Jan. 28, 2004. The city complained that the motion was late because, under 28 U.S.C. 1446(b), it was filed more than 30 days after service of process on Dec. 24, 2003. The district court granted the motion to remove. HOLDING:Affirmed and remanded. The court explains that although federal law requires the defendant to file a removal motion within 30 days of service, the term “service of process” is to be defined by state law. In Mississippi, 13-3-49 and 79-4-15.07 authorize service on any agent of a corporation. An agent includes the registered agent, which itself may be a corporation. Therefore, the statute authorizes service on a registered-agent corporation itself � not a human employee thereof. The court says it appears that the statutes have drawn a distinction between corporations, in general, and registered-agent corporations. The court adds that Mississippi’s civil procedure rules are also relevant, and that Rule 4(d) of those rules permits service on a foreign or domestic corporation by “delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or to any other agent authorized . . . by law to receive service of process.” The court says that under the facts of this case, service was effected on BellSouth through Prentice-Hall no earlier than Dec. 29, when Prentice-Hall’s offices reopened for business after being closed for the holidays. The court finds guidance from a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case: Tech Hills II v. Phoenix Home Life Ins. Co., 5 F.3d 963, which held, “that delivery at defendant’s place of business on a Saturday, when the offices are closed, to a security guard, who is not authorized to receive service on behalf of the corporation, is not receipt under the removal statute.” The court holds here that leaving the papers in an inbox on a day when no one would or could process them cannot, under the rationale of Tech Hills, constitute service until such time as the office reopens and the papers can be processed and sent to the principal. “Although we do not need to decide whether the district court was correct in saying that service on a corporation must be directly on a human actor, the result reached by the district court, in declaring that there was no effective service before December 29, is plainly correct.” OPINION:Smith, J.; Davis, Smith and Dennis, JJ.

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