Login | December 07, 2022

Tradable subpoenas are on the horizon. Big bucks ahead

RICHARD WEINER
Technology for Lawyers

Published: September 9, 2022

So this happened: A New York Supreme Court (equivalent to a Common Pleas court in Ohio, as we know), followed by a UK high court, OK’d the serving of court papers as NFTs to anonymous defendants (not Anonymous the decentralized org, I’m pretty sure).
To review, NFTs are another way to monetize or otherwise personalize the blockchain, other than cryptocurrency itself. NFT stands for “non-fungible token.” The blockchain provides proof that any given token, which could be anything from a work of art to, in this case, court papers, is original and cannot be altered or duplicated. Once created, they self-authenticate, and can then be sent to a recipient, or “air-dropped.” So, for instance, I made a couple of bucks trading NFT basketball cards a while back.
And yes, we are leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that blockchains themselves are, in fact, unsecure. There will be more on that to come.
Anyway, in these cases, these courts allowed service by airdrop on anonymous parties to a court proceeding by means of NFTs. The parties to be served in these cases were only able to be identified by a cryptocurrency wallet number, and not as an identifiable individual owner of that wallet.
While so far very limited, this could harken a sea change in the process of serving legal papers because, by definition, the blockchain eliminates the need for third-party verification of the transaction.
The first and most obvious change that allowing court service to be delivered via the blockchain would render is the elimination of a human intermediary—post office worker, process server, etc.
Maybe projecting this out into the larger field of process serving is jumping the gun. It only made sense to serve a wallet number via the blockchain. And it may make sense if there are multiple parties to be served who are all involved in a large cryptocurrency transaction.
But maybe it’s the wave of the future. Maybe you’ll be checking your email one day and there will be a link to service of process in a blockchain. Click it and you’re served, and you can’t dodge it because the transaction is permanently recorded, and you own it just like you own a baseball card. We shall see.


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