August 27, 2020
Social media continues to grow in importance in daily life. One instance is judicial processes such as online dispute resolution. The latest iteration comes from the Texas Supreme Court which recently adopted rules amendments that will permit service of process by social media.
Set to take effect December 31, 2020, the newly revised Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 106 and 108a allows a party to make a motion to the court to allow for service "in any other manner, including electronically by social media, email, or other technology, that the statement or other evidence shows will be reasonably effective to give the defendant notice of the suit."
Texas was not the first state to put into its rules such a provision. Alaska’s Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e) permits a litigant to pursue alternative methods of service, such as posting to the court’s legal notice website or posting to a social media account once the litigant has made a diligent inquiry by attempting to serve process by certified mail/restricted delivery/return receipt and/or via a process server. The litigant must complete a Request to Serve Defendant by Posting or Alternative Service and an Affidavit of Diligent Inquiry for the court’s review.
Other states have had to rely on individual cases involving and limited to individual defendants and parties. For example, New York's courts have allowed service by social media in certain cases (Noel B. v. Anna Maria A. and Ellanora Arthur Baidoo v. Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku) as well as New Jersey (K.A. v. J.L.) and other states and cases.
A 2020 Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law article details some of the latest innovations and challenges to service of process by social media, arguing in the end that social media is a good alternative for alternative service of process.
Additional resources on this topic can be found in NCSC's Social Media and the Courts Network Center (www.ncsc.org/socialmedia) which examines how are courts deciding social media issues, including whether or not to permit service of process via social media. The Network Center also examines rules and regulations courts or organizations follow in terms of their use of social media, as well as step-by-step instructions on how courts can perform various social media tasks.