Proposal to Allow “Substitute Service” of Legal Documents through Social Media – What Do You Think?

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I need your help — I intend to write a more thorough analysis of this issue and would appreciate your help so please tell me what you think. (see below for specific questions)

A new bill proposed in Texas would allow people to be served legal documents through social media as a form of “substituted service.” What do you think, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Read more here: Texas Bill Would Allow Serving Subpoenas Through Social Media and Texas Leg Watch 2013: Bill proposes to allow service via social media. The text of proposed H.B. No. 1989 (.pdf file), authored by attorney Jeff Leach, is as follows:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.  Subchapter B, Chapter 17, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, is amended by adding Section 17.031 to read as follows:

Sec. 17.031.  SUBSTITUTED SERVICE THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE.  (a)  If substituted service of citation is authorized under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may prescribe as a method of service under those rules an electronic communication sent to the defendant through a social media website if the court finds that:

(1)  the defendant maintains a social media page on that website;

(2)  the profile on the social media page is the profile of the defendant;

(3)  the defendant regularly accesses the social media page account; and

(4)  the defendant could reasonably be expected to receive actual notice if the electronic communication were sent to the defendant’s account.

(b)  Notwithstanding Section 22.004, Government Code, the supreme court may not amend or adopt rules in conflict with this section.

SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2013.

Prior Case Law on Social Media Service

Also, check out the blog I wrote last year discussing a case in which a federal judge refused to allow a lawsuit to be served on a defendant via social media, instead reasoning that the local papers would better apprise the defendant of the lawsuit. Given what we know about that defendant, do you think she was more likely to be informed of things happening on Facebook or in the local newspapers? Federal Court in New York Refuses Service Via Facebook | Shawn E. Tuma.

UPDATE: We are actively discussing this proposal on the State Bar of Texas group on LinkedIn – feel free to join by clicking HERE!

QUESTIONS: Please tell me your thoughts on:

  1. is this a good or bad idea;
  2. why is this a good or bad idea;
  3. what pros and/or cons you see for using social media in this way;
  4. what tools, services or procedures are you aware of that could be used or could help make this process more reliable;
  5. what overall suggestions do you have that could help make this process more reliable; and
  6. anything else you can share that may have some bearing on this discussion.

I am seeking truth and understanding, not advocating a position (at this point), thank you for your help!

4 thoughts on “Proposal to Allow “Substitute Service” of Legal Documents through Social Media – What Do You Think?

  1. I filed an Alienation of Affection laws suit here in North Carolina,and failed at having the indidvidual personally served. Two certified letters were mailed; one at the defendants last known address, and one to the defendants (new) boyfreind. No response what-so-ever. I served her via facebook,and got quit the response;although, the response is well over the 30 day limit. A couple of days later,facebook disabled my account, and after numerious attempts to contact them about my account situation,,,,no response from them either.

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