Tags: Serve | Legal | Papers | Facebook

Serving Legal Papers Using Facebook

By Friday, 19 September 2014 03:41 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Back in 2008, an Australian court enabled a lender to serve notice on borrowers via Facebook that he was foreclosing on their property. Emboldened by this precedent, attorneys in Canada, New Zealand, and England followed suit. Privacy advocates were shocked, but the phenomenon’s popularity began to build.
And now legal service via Facebook has come to America.
When Staten Island resident Noel Biscocho’s son turned 21, Biscocho felt it was time to stop paying $440 a month in child support to his ex-wife, Ana Maria Antigua.
There was a problem with that plan of action, however. According to a July 6 affidavit, when Biscocho traveled to his ex-wife’s home, he was told that she had moved out without leaving a forwarding address.
Moreover, some amateur sleuthing using Google searches turned up nothing and neither his son nor his daughter, 22, were returning messages.
Normally, here in the civilized legal world, with its origins in English Common law and English Statute law, when someone with a legal complaint — the plaintiff/petitioner — has a gripe with somebody — that is, a defendant/respondent — the plaintiff must first file papers with the court that start an action (Summons, Request for Order, Petition, etc.) and then the plaintiff gives notice of the filed paperwork to the other side by delivering or “serving” copies of them to the other person. This is called “service of process.”
There is a whole industry built around service of process, wherein a third person who is generally 18 years old or older (the “server” or “process server”) physically delivers, or serves, the paperwork to the other side, thus informing the person receiving the documents of what the serving party —the plaintiff — has told the court and what the plaintiff has asked to court to do.
In places such as Scotland in the old days, the defendant would be handed not one but two copies of a document, called “a full double.”
If the papers cannot be served in the correct way at the correct time — that is, if the other side is not properly “served” — the judge cannot make any permanent orders or judgments and the court can’t go forward with the case.
In the case of Mr. Biscocho and Ms. Antigua, it appeared that Biscocho was out of luck, as Ms. Antigua had effectively physically disappeared from the scene.
Ms. Antigua, however, according to Biscocho’s statements, “maintains an active social media account with Facebook.” Indeed, as late as July 2014, Antigua had clicked the “like” button on Facebook photos posted by Biscocho’s second wife.
As it happens, maintaining a Facebook account was a good enough connection, legal-wise, for Staten Island Support Magistrate Gregory Gliedman to decide that Biscocho could legally contact or serve notice on Antigua via social media.
Thus, as the old guard of jurisprudence retires, inefficient time-honored procedures are streamlined or replaced entirely with high technology and advanced communications.
It all reminds one of the 1980s and early 1990s, when yours truly was the first Management Information Services director of the New York law firm, Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent, Sheinfeld & Sorkin, at the time the attorneys of Rupert Murdoch (later merged into Hogan and Lovells).
In the days when legal documents had to physically traverse New York and other cities, messenger services reigned supreme. The streets of Manhattan were overrun by crazed couriers peddling bicycles like mad up-and-down and across the island, colliding with cars, buses, taxis, pedestrians, and whatever else had the misfortune of getting in their way.
Additionally, we at Squadron used to receive documents from Europe delivered by the supersonic Concord, which normally involved somebody running out to JFK airport and back.
But then a near-miracle occurred. Starting in 1995, Utah (followed by California, Wyoming and Washington) enacted digital signature laws, making electronic records acceptable as the best evidence of a contract and “electronic signatures” acceptable as a formal requirement of accepting a contract. The upshot of all this was that signed legal documents could now be faxed and all the parties need not be present at the signing.
This was revolutionary, because clauses were often added to agreements and each party to the agreement might have to sign a different copy of the document with various signature pages collected together into one version. The document and signatures could now be faxed, with the originals sent via mail if necessary.
Bicycle messengers were stupefied — and many were immediately unemployed. The secondary market in bicycles and scooters took a hit.
For urban areas, it was the greatest development since the invention of the light bulb. Once again, thanks to technology, it was safe to walk the streets of Manhattan.
Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.

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Back in 2008, an Australian court enabled a lender to serve notice on borrowers via Facebook that he was foreclosing on their property. Emboldened by this precedent, attorneys in Canada, New Zealand, and England followed suit.
Serve, Legal, Papers, Facebook
Friday, 19 September 2014 03:41 PM
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