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University of Baltimore Law Review

Abstract

The emergence of social media as a driving force in modern society has brought it to the forefront of legal discussion in all areas of law. Fields of study such as evidence, ethics, and constitutional law are all currently wrestling with how social media ought to be handled. In particular, courts have attempted to determine whether service of process (or simply “service”) should be satisfied by the use of communication through social media. Since 1950, courts have relied upon the same test, regardless of the method used, to determine the sufficiency of service: the Mullane test. Mullane as currently applied, however, does not sufficiently scrutinize service via social media in a manner conducive to understanding the peculiarities of this method of communication. This Comment will not attempt to determine whether the use of social media to effect service of process is constitutional. Rather, it will show how the current application of the Mullane standard leads courts to categorically accept or reject service as effected, and, therefore, a new test ought to be adopted to measure the individual social media communication method used to attempt service. This test ought to be utilized to determine whether a particular use of a specific social media platform has fulfilled the constitutional requirements for service, vis-à-vis Mullane.

This Comment will begin by examining the standard for sufficient service of process established by the Supreme Court in Mullane, followed by the cases expanding that decision; in particular Greene v. Lindsey, Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams, and Jones v. Flowers. This Comment will also survey the technological advancements that have affected courts’ determinations regarding service. It will then observe how foreign courts have treated issues of electronic service, as well as review the development of this issue in the United States. Finally, this Comment will scrutinize current methods of service, propose a new test that courts ought to use to determine the sufficiency of service effected via social media, and compare the test’s advantages to the current test.

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