Smith v. Johansen: Service by Drone?
Posted on April 1, 2013
Smith sought leave to make service by alternate means. His motion was highly unusual, to say the least. He asked the court for leave to make an air-drop of the documents over Johansen’s cabin, using his firm’s long-range “polar explorer” drone and a special attachment that he had previously tried to sell to the Air Force that allowed for precision guided air-drops. Since no human being would be on hand to attest to the service, the drone would circle the cabin and take photographs using special high-resolution cameras once Johansen came out to collect the package. Smith even presented a letter from the Norwegian embassy indicating that Norway had no objection.
The judge denied the motion. This was perhaps unsurprising given how unorthodox Smith’s suggestion was. But interestingly, the judge did not object to the method of service itself—he seemed to find it fascinating and suggested it could be used in a proper case. The trouble, he wrote, was that given Johansen’s isolation, it wouldn’t be possible for him to answer the complaint within the time permitted by the rules. The judge, therefore, suggested that Smith should propose a method of landing a drone in the fjord so as to enable Johansen to put his answer or motion to dismiss on board for the return trip to the United States. Time will tell whether Smith can come up with a workable solution to what otherwise seems like a clear denial of due process.
Update (4/2/13):As you may have guessed, this was an April Fools post. So don’t cite it!
Photo credit: Paul Ridgeway