Coming Soon to Texas: Service of Process via Social Media
The Texas Supreme Court, in an effort not to be outdone by California’s busy legislative session, is making headlines with a much-anticipated order on how parties in a civil lawsuit can receive legal notifications or process.
Texas Legislation Regarding Social Media for Due Process
On August 21, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court approved the proposed amendments to Rule 106 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, after the Texas Legislature amended a statue of the Texas Code and Civil Procedure in 2019 to allow substituted service via social media, which was then signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
This amended statute directs the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules under Section 17.033, Civil Practice and Remedies Code that would “provide for the substituted service of citation by an electronic communication sent to a defendant through a social media presence” no later than December 31, 2020, which the court is now doing.
The amendment allows for the use of email and social media for notification. As stated on ABC Legal’s blog post dated August 28th on this topic, service of process is generally tactical and often tricky. Nonetheless, technology has paved the way for the emergence of alternative methods of serving processes that are suitable and straight-forward-including the use of email and social media for notification.
According to local news outlets, attorneys can now begin petitioning the court to utilize this option, but only for people who cannot otherwise be served in person or by mail. This alternative method of service must be approved by a judge in the court the litigation is filed. Attorneys must first show they’ve attempted, but were unable to locate the defendant, as well as confirming a specific social media account legitimately belongs to the individual being served. Otherwise, they face further legal complications, or the case being altogether thrown out for improper service of process.
Issues with Using Social Media to Deliver Service of Process
Some officials in Texas see this as a big help in serving due process on hard to locate defendants; while others foresee potential court challenges by the parties being served indicating they were not properly served.
The primary issue with using this method for service of process is privacy and security. There are countless fake user accounts and ‘bots’ on all social media platforms. Chances are if you checked your own name you’d either find others with the same name, or perhaps even some imitating you. This is exactly why there’s a challenge in determining whether the summons was received by the actual, legitimate defendant. As it’s possible for hackers to gain illegitimate access into user accounts, privacy is of utmost concern. Additionally, if hacking or the wrong account is indicated, the intended party would fail to be properly notified.
While legal systems across the United States are wise to recognize the value of social media as an alternative medium for serving process, the validity and importance of professional service of process firms, such as ABC Legal cannot be overemphasized.
The Texas Supreme Court will be taking public comment on this issue until December 31, 2020. If you’d like to submit your comments to them you can do so here. As the use of social media to serve process is an issue likely to have come up (or will soon be) by a court near you, read further into this issue in a piece by the State Bar of Texas.
About ABC Legal Services
ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing company and is the official process server to the U.S. Department of Justice. Docketly is a subsidiary of ABC Legal, providing appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. ABC Legal’s applications are cloud-based and compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Our solutions and digital approach ensure process server partners, law firm customers, and their clients save valuable time and resources when serving legal notices safely and with maximum compliance, control, and transparency. ABC Legal is based in Seattle, WA, with more than 2,000 process servers throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in more than 75 countries. To learn more about ABC Legal, our solutions, and subsidiary company Docketly, visit www.abclegal.com.