Texas Lawyers May Soon Be Able to Serve Defendent Via Facebook

Serving people with lawsuits or divorce papers can be a tricky business. Maybe they've moved. Maybe they haven't left much of a paper trail. Maybe they just don't want to be found. Chances are slim, after all, that they'll be delighted with what the process server brings them.

But this is the 21st century, when a sizable chunk of people's business takes place online, so why not make it easier to digitally serve people with legal papers? That's the idea behind a bill filed by state Representative Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican whose previous cameos on Unfair Park have involved his passion for social conservative causes, which would allow legal papers to be served via Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal took note of the bill last week (paywall), noting that Leach describes himself as an "avid proponent of tort reform," and that its passage would make Texas the first state in the country to allow service by social media, which would almost be unprecedented in U.S. courts. Almost.

Last week, a federal judge in New York ruled that the Federal Trade Commission could use Facebook to serve documents in a case against defendants in India.

That ruling allowed social media service only as a backup to more established methods, and Leach's bill would do much the same. Service by Facebook would only be allowed when a judge authorizes substituted service because a defendant cannot otherwise be found.

Seems reasonable enough, but I'm neither a lawyer nor a process server.