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How to Tell Someone She’s Being Sued, Without Really Telling Her

Publication Date: 
November 19, 2007
The New York Times
Adam Liptak

Professor Deborah L. Rhode is quoted in The New York Times about the usefulness of legal notices:

“The publication requirement always struck me as a pointless waste of money,” said Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford who in divorce cases has represented poor women forced to buy ads to notify their missing husbands that they had been sued.

“It was particularly ludicrous for our clients, who were below the poverty threshold and had partners who would never be looking at the designated publication,” Professor Rhode said. “It was a form of what we used to refer to as ‘sewer service.’ ” (The term refers to the fraudulent practice of claiming to have served legal papers on someone while actually tossing them in the sewer or trash.)


Of course, Ms. Johnson is probably not in the habit of searching the Internet for legal developments, either. Given that, Professor Rhode said, arguing about where to publish pointless notices solves nothing.

“I resist,” she said, “substituting one meaningless formalism for another.”