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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is Personal Service of Civil Subpoenas Coming to an End?

Recently I stumbled upon a website, that as a professional process server for more than 25 years, gave me cause for concern. The site contained a list of Internet service providers, social networking sites and major media giants based in the United States that included contact names, addresses, phone numbers, facsimile numbers, and, in some cases, information about how to serve process upon them electronically.

Companies like AT&T, Facebook and Google have listed their preferred method for subpoena delivery in criminal cases. This brings up the question that if these companies are readily publishing information about how to serve process upon them for criminal cases, why not do the same for the purpose of serving civil or other process? If an attorney stumbled upon this list, what would stop them from sending process electronically in a civil case to these companies?

I decided to contact a few of major companies listed on the website to ask them how to send a civil subpoena for records. The following are copies of real emails I sent and the real responses:



From: Jeff Karotkin [mailto:jkarotkin@onelegal.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 12:18 PM
To: xxxxxxxx@facebook


Subject: Subpoena for Records


Facebook:


I have a civil subpoena for records to serve upon Facebook. Can I have it sent to this email address and if so what are the proper procedures to insure compliance.

Jeff H. Karotkin
Vice President of Strategic Development
One Legal LLC.


From: [xxxxxxxx@facebook.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 3:55 PM
To: Jeff Karotkin


Subject: RE: Subpoena for Records


Hello – We are in receipt of you request, please feel free to fax the subpoena to: (xxx) xxx-xxxx.


Please also note a check of $50.00 will need to be sent for processing.

Thank you – Facebook, Inc.






From: Jeff Karotkin
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 12:11 PM
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxx@cox.com

Subject: Subpoena for Records


Mrs. Riley


I have a civil subpoena for records to serve upon Cox Communications. I was wondering if I can have it sent to this email address or if there is another preferred method for serving the subpoena.

Thanks


Jeff H. Karotkin
Vice President of Strategic Development
One Legal LLC.



From: xxxxxxxxxxxxx@cox.com
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 5:53 AM
To: Jeff Karotkin


Subject: RE: Subpoena for Records


Mr. Karotkin,

You may send your subpoena as a .pdf attachment to this email address.


Subpoena Coordinator
Cox Communications, Inc.
xxxxxxxxxxxxx@cox.com

When a company receives service by fax, email or snail mail today do they care if it was properly served? Since companies are providing information about how to service process upon them, it appears that they do not care. Some companies might even prefer to receive electronic papers because it is simply less hassle.

Electronic communications and technological advances are rapidly changing the world in which we live and work. It was not that long ago that the Internet was not widely used, few companies had websites and Google, Facebook and Twitter didn’t even exist.

Five years ago NAPPS had a panel discussion on eFiling and eService with discussions about these changes might mean to our profession. Many in the room thought that the impact on process servers would be minimal, that electronic service of process would not threaten traditional service of process. Today, we can see these changes being made right before our eyes. There are more than a dozen examples in the news where papers have been served via via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and even text.

Today, law firms and their clients are demanding that their vendors do business smarter, faster and more efficiently than ever. Gone are the days when law firms mailed secondary service/correspondence. If a firm is still printing, collating, stapling, labeling and mailing documents to opposing counsel they are behind the times.

As technology improves and the legal industry changes, the process serving industry needs to reflect those changes too. The legal industry is using technology to leverage, facilitate and streamline the practice of law and will expect us to follow suit.

The industry is at a crossroads where we have the choice to accept that technology is going to advance, or we choose to ignore it and continue serving papers with blinders on. I believe that if we hope to successfully insure our long-term viability we need to collectively adapt and evolve.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. “ Charles Darwin

Several years ago the National Notary Association (NNA) recognized the threat of eNotarization in their industry. They realized that they needed to be a part of the solution if they if their members were going to retain a role. Four years ago they gathered various notary groups and interested parties to start a discussion about eNotarization. Today, thanks largely to vision, determination and focus they lead the way forward in eNotarization, keeping their interested parties in business.

The private process serving profession faces similar challenges today. Individual process servers without a strategy for industry development will have a hard time ensuring their long-term success.

This challenge is bigger than one association, it requires that all interested parties partner in an effort to create the foundation for a strategy moving forward. Once the foundation is in place, we can continue to build and transform our industry to not only keep pace with the legal industry, but also ensure that process servers’ businesses will continue to thrive. If we do not find a way to clarify our role in an electronic world, we risk being obsolete one day very soon.