TO: Joint Procedure Committee
FROM: Mike Hagburg
DATE: April 12, 2017
RE: Rule 4, N.D.R.Civ.P., Persons Subject to Jurisdiction; Process; Service
At the January meeting, the committee tabled this proposal and instructed staff to investigate whether the court had adequate staff and resources to operate a service by web posting system. Staff met by teleconference with the Alaska court staff who operate their posting website. Alaska does not have electronic filing, so the first step in their process is for the district court clerk to scan the notice of service by web posting document. The clerk then emails the scan to the supreme court clerk's office, where it is checked and then placed in an electronic queue. At this point, an automatic process takes over and posts the notice on the website. After four weeks, the notice is removed from the website and a proof of posting certificate is automatically generated.
Even though there is some manual work by the district court and supreme court clerks in the Alaska system, they consider it to be a no cost solution. Staff spoke to Larry Zubke who said given the fact we have electronic filing, it would not be difficult to create an automatic posting system if we could identify an event that would trigger the process. Staff has redrafted paragraph (e)(3)(B) of the proposal to make filing of the summons by publication in Odyssey the event that would trigger automatic web posting.
The committee first considered adoption of a service by web posting system at the September 2016 meeting. Under the September draft, service by web posting would have replaced the current system of service by newspaper publication. The committee decided this was too extreme a solution and requested that staff redraft the proposal so that service by newspaper publication would be retained and service by web publication could be used when publication in a county newspaper was not required by law.
The revised draft retains the current system and adds service by web publication as an alternative form of publication. It also adds a requirement that an internet search for the missing party be performed as part of the pre-publication diligent inquiry process. The committee may wish to discuss whether publication by web posting should be automatic in all cases in which service by publication is sought--some redrafting of the proposal would be required to accomplish this.
Cost is one reason Rod Olson suggested the committee consider service by web posting. His attached email discusses Unit 2's annual service by publication costs. The legislature passed a study resolution on publication, attached, because the state government's biennial legal notice publication costs are more than $3 million.
The new draft also includes a proposed new paragraph listing supplemental forms of service that can be required by court order, such as service by posting to an online newspaper website, service by email, posting to a social network account, posting on a bulletin board or posting on the front door of the absent party's home. These alternatives are based on those in Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 4, copy attached. At the last meeting, the discussion showed that some committee members were hesitant about allowing these supplemental methods of service.
Also attached is a 2016 article on why Alaska chose to switch to the service by web posting system and the process they used to put it into place. The article states that service by web posting has been effective in Alaska: thousands of legal notices have been posted to the website; a local U.S. District Court judge authorized service by posting on the website; clerk of court surveys show high customer satisfaction with the legal notice website and the elimination of publication costs in most cases; and clerks have reported that litigants have appeared in court after learning about cases from the legal notice website.
Some pages from the Alaska web posting site are attached. It is a simple system: there is a legal notices webpage with links to the various types of notices. Following the links leads to a current list of notices that has additional links to case specific notice documents.