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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Has the Internet Changed the Service of Process

Has the Internet changed the way Process Servers perform their jobs? Will traditional process servers become a thing of the past?  


The answer is clear to the first question, how process servers perform their duties has changed in so many ways.  And electronic service of process may be one of the biggest changes on the horizon.


Tabitha Messick of Citizen Media Law Project, published a blog post earlier today (July 26, 2012) entitled Service of Process, 2.0.  Her post explores the role of Service of Process historically and chronicles its slow evolution up to a case in New York that I wrote about a few weeks ago involving a judge’s refusal to allow service of a defendant via social media.  Her blog post can be found here


She makes many of the same observations I have made in prior blog posts.  If I did not know better I would think that much of the information she has written about was gleaned from this blog.  If so, I am flattered.   The following is one of her observations:


"The ABA's Science and Technology Committee took a stab at addressing legal and technical issues with electronic service in 2006 with its Best Practices for Electronic Service of Process (eSOP). Though dated now, it was an important starting point in the discussion. The document proposed requiring knowing and voluntary waivers of service (e.g., via website terms of use), document encryption for privacy and confidentiality, and maintaining principles and protections consistent with due process. The draft rules also reiterated the importance of receipted transactions as reliable proof for electronic service of process."

As one of the few folks that was fortunate enough to have participated on the ABA committee that crafted the Best Practices, I have to agree that it is time to dust them off and use them as a new starting point to help ensure that simple email of social media platforms do not become the standard for reliable electronic service of process.  

It is crystal clear to me that the legal community is embracing change and primed to accept the notion that eService could be as reliable and trustworthy as traditional service of process. The question remains will traditional process servers be in a position to recognize that even though the shifting marketplace is scary and sometimes threatening it may present an opportunity?    Time will tell.

Jeff Karotkin