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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Texas Bill Would Allow Service of Process via Facebook

On February 27, 2013, a Bill was introduced in the Texas legislature that relates to substituted service of Citation through a social media website.  House Bill 1989 would essentially formalize a process by which lawyers could petition the court to prescribe an alternative method of service under specific circumstances. 

As currently written in order for a Judge/Court to prescribe service via a social media website they would have to find that four conditions had been met.  The are as follows:

(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.

The Bill is currently referred to the Judicial and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.  If the Bill is approved by the legislature and ultimately signed by the governor it would take effect September 1, 2013. 

Some might argue that this represents a significant step that could have an impact upon the private process serving industry.  Others may not think it is a big deal.  I suspect this Bill was introduced to provide the courts and attorneys with clear guidance for prescribing alternative methods of service while also acknowledging that electronic communications and social media platforms have become so prevalent that they can and should be leveraged to provide legal notice to parties that are either evading service opf process or just can't be served physically by any other approved method. 

Texas would not be the first state legislature that formally adopt rules that specifically allow service via social media like twitter, facebook, text or email.  The Utah courts have specifically allowed this method of service for a few years.  The Utah State Courts website even offers a form Proof of Service that allows a user to check an appropriate box describing the manner in which the petitioner electronically communicated with the intended recipient.

Austin CBS TV Station ran the story and interviewed a few Constables. see video here
by Jeff Karotkin 3-7-13