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Service Via Social Networking?

Guest blog post by Julie Brook, Esq., Legal Editor with the CEB blog

Serving a complaint via Facebook may be in our future. As reports, the practice of online legal service is spreading around the world as courts look for new ways to keep their dockets moving.

In California, service of summons is generally made by

  • personal service (CCP §415.10),
  • substituted service (CCP §415.20),
  • service by mail and acknowledgment of receipt (CCP §415.30), or
  • service by publication when the plaintiff cannot with reasonable diligence serve the defendant by any of the other methods (CCP §415.50).

Service of notices and other papers may be made by mail in most circumstances. CCP §1012. Electronic service, i.e., serving papers by e-mail, is currently available only in federal court. See, e.g.Calderon v IBEW Local 47 (9th Cir 2007) 508 F3d 883.

But with some people existing only online, service through the additional method of social-media networks could be a very useful tool, and may actually be necessary in some situations.

Service via social media is not without its potential problems, of course. Joseph DeMarco, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice cyber crime committee and a lawyer at New York-based DeVore & DeMarco LLP, told that “the challenge would be to collect enough proof to convince a court the accountholder is the right person and the page is checked often enough to ensure it’s a fair path of notification.”

There are also potential violations of ethics codes when lawyers  “friend” the target for service under false pretenses to get past security settings.

What do you think? Will California someday adopt new service rules that permit service via social media? Would it be wise to do so?

For everything you need to know about serving legal papers in California, turn to CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chap 18.

This material is reproduced from Julie Brook’s blog entry, Service Via Social Media?, CEB Blog (August 1, 2011, 2011 by the Regents of the University of California. Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar - California. For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site,

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