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Court OKs Service of Summons on Facebook

In the latest twist involving the interface of law and social media, a court in New Zealand has given lawyers the go-ahead to serve process on a defendant in Britain by way of the social-networking site Facebook. A High Court judge issued the order after lawyers for the plaintiff said they did not know the defendant's precise whereabouts but were able to confirm that he has a Facebook page.

"Justice Gendall did not bat an eyelid in the court room when approving the order after being assured that newspaper adverts could not be effectively targeted," the New Zealand Press Association reports. The lawsuit, brought by New Zealand company Axe Market Garden, alleges that the owner's son, Craig Axe, took $241,000 (around $126,000 in U.S. dollars) from a company bank account.

The lawyer for the company, Daniel Vincent, told reporters that he believed the case to be the first in New Zealand to allow service of court papers using Facebook. He was inspired to make the request, he said, by a recent court case in Australia where the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court approved an application to use Facebook to notify a couple that they had lost their home after defaulting on a loan.

The Australian ruling even elicited a statement of praise from none other than Facebook itself. "We're pleased to see the Australian court validate Facebook as a reliable, secure and private medium for communication. The ruling is also an interesting indication of the increasing role that Facebook is playing in people's lives."

The New Zealand order was issued in March -- but, hey, these things take time to filter up from down under. I offer a hat tip to Julius Melnitzer for picking it up this week at FP Legal Post, where I first heard about it.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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