Service by publication is a substitute delivery of litigation documents to give the opposing litigant notice of the suit against them by publishing the documents in an advertisement or in a newspaper of general circulation. Service by publication may be used to attempt to notify a defendant who is intentionally absent, in hiding, or at an unknown address.
Courts are very hesitant to allow service by publication and will often require a reasonable basis to believe that the defendant could not be served with more conventional methods.
- For example, in Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank Trust, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that service by publication did not violate procedural due process where a trustee notified dispersed trust beneficiaries, for whom the trustee had no address, through a New York newspaper of their opportunity to challenge the trustee’s management of the trust or otherwise waive their claim.
Service by publication may also be acceptable in a divorce action to serve a spouse who has disappeared without leaving a forwarding address, or to give notice to people who might have a quiet title action against the owner of real property.
[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]