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Is it possible to serve someone process in 140 characters or less over such social media platforms as Twitter? Many seem to think yes. A new debate currently brewing within the legal community is whether state and federal laws should be amended to allow for service of process on new media and social media platforms. Many argue that the antiquated rules of service of process are no longer relevant in our ever-evolving technology driven society. According to the American Bar Association Journal, Minnesota resident Jessica Mpafe was recently looking to serve her husband with divorce papers. However, she had no physical address or means of locating him so the judge wrote an order authorizing Mpafe to serve notice of process to her husband by “email, ‘Facebook, Myspace or any other social networking site.’” Is this the wave of the future?
Currently electronic service of process is only available in federal practice for serving individuals in foreign countries under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3). Otherwise, each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding the means of service of process, and typically documents can only be served upon a defendant personally at the person’s residence or place of business (in some cases, service of process may be delivered through the mail). In exceptional cases, service may be authorized by procedural rules or court order. The Federal Rules were first adopted in 1938, years before the advent of email, blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. One could argue that in 2011 people are more prone to check their Facebook mailbox than their home mailbox.
Many are now advocating that the federal rules be amended to reflect the changing tide in new media technology. However, before any sweeping changes in legislation can be effectuated, several key questions must first be answered. How does one verify receipt of electronic service of process? How does one ensure the authenticity of an email address or social media profile? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
– Jaia A. Thomas, Esq.
Jaia A. Thomas is an entertainment law attorney based in New York. She received her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in 2006.
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