Pretty broad question, but I'm curious: When and where can email be used in court and attorney communications in the US?

I know that email and forms of online identity are not at such a technological state that delivery of documents to individuals can be certified. I mean, as they say, "on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." (Or, for that matter, a lawyer).

But can a court send summons and subpoenas by email? Could you respond in email? Or are we still at the FAX stage, if that.

What about an attorney? Can email be a legal method of sending documents between attorneys?

What about electronic signatures for emails? Does sending an email effectively sign and date it?

  • You desperately need to add a jurisdiction tag to this. (You have it in the question.) The answer will not be the same around the world. Nov 24, 2016 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


In Australia a summons has been legally served by posting it on Facebook. Facebook showed that the document had been accessed by the account user and the court accepted that as the person who owned the account and the person summonsed were the same that service had occurred.

In general, it doesn't matter how a document was served so long as there is evidence that it was received: email and other forms of electronic messaging may or may not provide such evidence. For example, if an email is part of a conversation then each response provides evidence that the previous email was received - the only room for doubt is in the last email in the chain.

An exception to this is the postal rule where something that is mailed is deemed to be received when it is dropped in the mailbox or, for some legislation, "in the ordinary time for delivery", usually 1 or 2 days.

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