Facebook: Connect With Old Friends and Get Served Court Papers

March 16, 2009 11:15 AM
by Anne Szustek
On Monday a New Zealand court approved the use of Facebook to issue a court summons.

New Zealand Defendant “Super-Poenaed”

Craig Axe, identified as living in the United Kingdom, has been accused of taking NZ$241,000 (about $126,300) from his family’s business, Axe Market Garden. According to the company’s legal representation, the plaintiff is essentially Axe’s father, John. New Zealand courts had been notified that there were family squabbles before Craig Axe allegedly accessed money from the company’s account over the Internet.

“The lawyer for Axe Market Garden, Daniel Vincent, said all other avenues to contact Craig Axe had been exhausted,” reported New Zealand Radio. The pending court case has been adjourned until April 27.

The younger Axe was known to have an account on popular social networking site Facebook, so Vincent asked New Zealand High Court associate judge David Gendall to allow the issuance of a secondary court summons via Facebook and over e-mail. The judge agreed. Vincent told the New Zealand Press Association that this is likely the first time the country’s High Court has approved court service via Facebook.

Background: Australian couple receives court service via Facebook

This is the second instance of the social networking site being used for court service in the past few months. In December an Australian couple was notified of a default judgment on their home on Facebook after other avenues had been exhausted.

"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," Facebook representatives were quoted as saying by the New Zealand Press Association.

Nick Abraham, a lawyer for Sydney, Australia law firm Deacons, told the Sydney Morning Herald said that Australian courts already allow for court service by email and the courts recently approved an instance of “substituted service” to issue a summons via cell phone text message.

Related Topic: Defendants incriminate themselves on social networking sites

American college student Joshua Lipton, 20, posed as a “jail bird” at a Halloween party just two weeks after a car accident in which he caused a woman serious injury while driving drunk. The prosecution used pictures of the party that were posted on Facebook to demonstrate Lipton’s lack of remorse. The judge concurred, sentencing him to two years in prison last year.

A similar case came up last July in the form of an 18-year-old Pennsylvania man, Joseph Genovese Jr., who bragged of his speeding and drug an alcohol use on MySpace even after being charged with a DUI-related homicide.

Reference: Guide to online social networking


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