Electronic service of process, or eService, is when you serve documents that gain jurisdiction over a party or non-party such as a defendant or a witness completely digitally. The circumstances that warrant such a service depend on the case, the court, and the location. Electronic service of process is most often utilized as a method of last resort when dealing with an elusive subject or when a case needs to be moved along quickly.
As life increasingly moves online, process servers remain vital to due process by offering service of process digitally.
eService often looks different depending on the circumstances of the situation, but typically involves transferring digital documents through popular online mediums such as email or social media. ServeManager also provides a digital service of process solution specifically designed for use by process servers.
Service by social media involves delivering electronic copies of the legal documents using the private messenger application of whatever medium the defendant is using. Some of these sites provide notifications when messages are received and read. There are currently no official regulations as to who can serve process electronically, and, to date, eService cases have relied on the rules of traditional service.
A significant responsibility of a process server in an eService case is verifying that the profiles or email addresses are accurate and regularly checked by the defendant. Both of these things must be proven before a court will approve eService.
Currently, electronic service of process is most often used when all other methods of service have been exhausted. While some argue eService is more effective than service by publication but, before it can be used, it must be proven that the defendant actually uses whatever account is being used for eService.
While email was once the primary form of eService, cases now include service by Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and electronic publication. As long as the owner of the account can be confirmed as well as their consistent use of the app, it can be used for eService with court approval.
Since every country operates using different treaties, laws, and procedures, international eService can be complicated even though several countries have begun to adopt electronic service of process.
In the US, the allowance of alternative methods of service depends on the individual court. Check with your local court or state rules, codes, and statutes to see what their stance is on eService.
While the formal rules and regulations of civil process service vary from state to state, eService mostly conforms with the same standards as traditional service of process. This includes that the documents are being served by an adult that is not a party to the action, that the right individual or entity is being served, and that there is verifiable proof that the documents were lawfully served. As long as these requirements are met, and the method is cleared by the court, eService can be a lawful method for serving process.
This can be a challenge with eService. With some mediums, such as Facebook, the messaging app will notify you that the message has been read. You can also use various email applications that will report whether someone opened an email you sent using the app.
ServeManager's electronic service of process feature allows you to send notification of service to the recipient and see if and when the notification is viewed, when physical service requirements have been waived, and when the service documents are downloaded from the ServeManager platform.
When filing a proof of service with the court, different states require different proof of service documents, especially when it comes to electronic service.
With ServeManager’s eService tool, updates are sent at every point in the process. Process servers will receive notifications when the recipient opens the email, clicks on the link, waives their right to physical service, and downloads the documents.
Following the completion of these steps, the process server can generate an affidavit specifically designed for eService that includes the audit trail information of the email receipt status, the waiver status, and the document download status. The process server will then be able to print, save as a pdf file, or email to the client contact(s) through ServeManager.
There are a couple of challenges that come with electronic service of process. Perhaps the biggest is that it is a less traditional method of service that is still viewed with a level of skepticism by many courts. Courts may have to be convinced that eService is the best option.
It’s also a challenge to establish that the service is reliable. To be considered legitimate, it must be proved that the defendant received the documents, that the recipient affirmatively consents to eService or otherwise has waived the physical service requirements.
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