Using Facebook to Serve Legal Documents

The legal documents that start a lawsuit usually must be served in person upon the defendant to assure that the defendant has notice of the suit. Some jurisdictions permit service by mail if the recipient acknowledges service, with personal service required as an alternative if no acknowledgment of the mailing is obtained. When a defendant can't be located, service is sometimes allowed by publication in a newspaper or by affixing the document to the defendant's front door.

Australia has added an interesting wrinkle (a glimpse of the future, perhaps?) by permitting service via Facebook.

In what may be a world first, lawyers from Canberra law firm Meyer Vandenberg persuaded a judge in the Australian Capital Territory's Supreme Court to allow them to serve the [mortgage default] documents over the internet after repeatedly failing to serve the papers in person. Lawyer Mark McCormack came up with the Facebook plan after it became clear that the couple did not want to be found.

What's next? Service via TalkLeft comments?

< Iraqi Shoe-Thrower's Brother Alleges Beatings in Custody | Three More Guantanamo Detainees to Be Released >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Fascinating (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 02:30:44 PM EST
    It seems reasonable that if someone uses Facebook regularly (for example, maybe they change their status message multiple times a day), then providing them with notice via Facebook would be just as good as providing them with notice in some other way.  But what are the odds that the judge hearing such a request is Facebook-savvy enough to make that judgment?  Lord knows I have plenty of friends who set up Facebook accounts years ago and then left the site, never to return.

    Nothing new in the principle, merely in the app (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by scribe on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 03:07:35 PM EST
    they decided to use.

    In 1979, there was a case in which a federal judge (S.D.N.Y.) allowed service of a summons and complaint by telex on a defendant hiding in Iran.

    In the 80s, service by fax - particularly of interlocutory papers - became commonplace.  And, by the late 80s, initial papers were being served by fax.

    Today, the ECF systems in federal court (and PACER) make electronic service an ordinary, everyday event.

    Truly, save the apps becoming more sophisticated, there is nothing new under the sun.

    You are as usual a plethora (none / 0) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 04:55:25 PM EST
    of legal stuff history.

    Another good reason why your Dog (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 02:24:49 PM EST
    should be running your Facebook :)

    Not good for print newspapers... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 02:57:43 PM EST
    if this catches on...the "Legal Notices" section is one of the only things keeping them afloat.

    as long as there is a provable, (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 06:29:28 PM EST
    reasonable expectation that the party will receive the documents, the method of service shouldn't necessarily be constrained.

    the issue is one of "constructive receipt". that's why posting it to the front door of your home has almost always been an acceptable method of service: you could choose to ignore it, and claim that you hadn't actually received it. however, absent evidence that you'd long ago abandoned the residence, you're argument won't fly.

    yeah (none / 0) (#7)
    by boredmpa on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 09:50:53 PM EST
    OT, but i would much prefer to serve notice in a very public place than post or hand it over.  though an e-mail would be ideal; preferably while at work.  

    in my case i need to serve the initial eviction X-days notice; my housemate has repeatedly been half to a full month+ late on rent and also thinks that yelling / screaming/ taunting/ banging on my door is an acceptable way to address issues.  

    a nightmare best handled in public since I can't really afford the lawyer and I don't want to have to do a 3-day notice for nuisance issues (i think it's an outgrowth of the rent issue anyway); he'd been an "ok" housemate overall and as a master tenant everything i do is pure economic losses/risk.

    next time I have a tenant in SF, they sign the waiver up front and we review the law and behavior up front.


    let this serve as notice (none / 0) (#8)
    by manish on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 02:02:37 AM EST
    What's next? Service via TalkLeft comments?

    I'm officially suing you...let this serve as notice of such. :-)

    On behalf of TalkLeft (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by TChris on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:03:23 AM EST
    we deny each and every material allegation of your lawsuit.  In the alternative, whatever you're suing for, Jeralyn or BTD did it, not me.

    but I only have facebook (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jen M on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:31:10 AM EST
    to read comments linked by blogs. I never visit my own darn page...

    I'm not the only one.