Working as a process server is a tough job. It might be one of the few modern professions where “don’t shoot the messenger” still has literal meaning. Seth Rogen made it look kind of cool in Pineapple Express, and he got to wear disguises. But that movie wasn’t exactly realistic.

But what if there was a new, technologically savvy way to serve hard-to-access litigants? Some sort of online community that everyone was a part of? Oh wait, we have that. It’s called Facebook.

::Light bulb goes on::

At least, that’s what a judge in England was thinking on Tuesday when he ruled that a defendant in a commercial dispute could be served via Facebook. The judge gets points for forward thinking, but at the same time I’m not sure the plan was too well thought-out…

We mentioned this story earlier in Morning Docket. The Associated Press has the full report:

Lawyers in a commercial dispute were last week granted permission to serve a suit against a defendant via the popular social networking site. Justice Nigel Teare permitted the unconventional method of service during a pretrial hearing into a case which pits two investment managers against a brokerage firm they accuse of overcharging them. A former trader and an ex-broker, Fabio De Biase and Anjam Ahmad, are also alleged to have been in on the scam.

Jenni Jenkins, who represents Ahmad, said lawyers in the case had been trying to track De Biase in order to serve him with legal documents. She said that a copy of the suit was left at his last known address, but that it wasn’t clear whether he was still living there. The lawyers didn’t have his email address, so they applied for permission to send him the claim through Facebook.

Okay. I guess that makes sense.Though it strikes me as a bit odd that someone who is discreet enough to hide his physical address is, at the same time, maintaining an active, public web presence.

Except, as usual, it’s not that simple:

Jenkins, an associate with London-based law firm Memery Crystal, said the lawyers were confident that de Biase’s account was still active.

“The counsel told the judge that someone from the firm had been monitoring the account and they’d seen that he’s recently added two new friends, which made the judge chuckle,” she said.

De Biase was given extra time to respond to the claim “to allow for the possibility that he wasn’t accessing his account regularly,” she added.

I hate to break it to you, Jenkins, but this doesn’t sound like confidence to me. He has two new Facebook friends? The amount that signifies is very close to zilch.

Also, what about that is funny? Internet friends! Hah, that is a knee-slapper! I guess I just don’t understand British humor.

It sounds mostly like the litigants were desperate to get in contact with this guy. I hope this innovative plan works, but I hope they aren’t holding their breath. If they haven’t gotten so far, the “sorry I never got your message because it ended up in my Facebook spam folder” excuse would likely hold some water, or at least delay things even longer. For what it’s worth, a government spokesperson says this is the first time they’ve seen something this.

Then again, maybe I am just cynical. Maybe Great Britain is on the verge of the new wave of process-serving technology. The AP also mentions a British judge in December who filed an “injunction against London-based protesters from the Occupy movement via text message.” Classy.

I, for one, would be a bit uncomfortable with legal documents being served regularly on Facebook. I don’t think it’s likely to take off anytime soon, unless Zuckerberg can find some way to make advertising revenue off it.

I can already see the banner ads: “Looks like you could use a new bank account. Come join us at Sketchy Bank of the Cayman Islands. No one else even knows we exist.”

UK court OKs legal claim to be served via Facebook [Associated Press]


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