Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oklahoma Supreme Court holds that notice provided only via Facebook does not satisfy due process

In a decision issued on October 14, 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court engaged in a spirited debate over whether a Facebook message provided adequate notice under state and federal due process requirements. The issue arose in a parental rights dispute between a mother and father. The majority held that Facebook messaging is unreliable and insufficient to meet the requirements of due process. The three dissenting justices pointed out that the father admitted receiving the Facebook message -- noting the longstanding principal that actual notice is adequate notice. The dissent then points out that other methods of communication could be just as unreliable.
In paragraph 37 of the opinion, the majority of the justices wrote: “Instead of contacting Father directly, Mother left him a message on Facebook, which is an unreliable method of communication if the accountholder does not check it regularly or have it configured in such a way as to provide notification of unread messages by some other means. This Court is unwilling to declare notice via Facebook alone sufficient to meet the requirements of the due process clauses of the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions because it is not reasonably certain to inform those affected.”

In paragraph 11 of the dissenting opinion, the dissenting justices wrote: “The majority opinion does not inform the biological mother precisely what notice is needed to satisfy this Court. The rule has been long accepted that, ‘Actual notice is the preferred method of satisfying due process requirements. . . .’ In re Dana P. 1982 OK 149, ¶ 9, 656 P.2d 253, 255. The Facebook message was actual notice. The Father testified that Facebook was his method to contact the Mother after he learned of the guardianship and that he reached her within twenty-four hours. Why would Facebook be any less reliable than other forms of electronic communication? Does the Court require a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses? Face-to-face discussions can be denied; letters can remain unopened; and faxes can be lost.”

The decision can be found here:

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