A U.S. District Judge ruled Tuesday that plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit brought against disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and a host of FTX celebrity spokespeople may not use Twitter or Instagram direct messages to subpoena the highly elusive Shaquille O'Neal, who is a defendant in the case and who has now been successfully evading process servers for more than four months. Instead of sliding into Shaq's DMs with several PDFs of court documents, process servers must continue to try to track him down in the physical universe.
Plaintiffs filed an unusual motion last week to serve O'Neal via social media, arguing that despite his demonstrable knowledge of the action—he commented on it during an appearance on CNBC in mid-December—O'Neal has not allowed himself to be served, has not assigned counsel to represent him in the case, and has not otherwise "appeared in this action." Worse, when a process server made several attempts over the course of a month to contact him at a Texas address, O'Neal or someone staying in his home responded with a hostile and intimidating text message containing misinformation about O'Neal's whereabouts. According to a declaration filed in support of last week's motion, someone texted the server "shaq lives in the Bahamas u stupid fuck give beth shaw my regards," with Beth Shaw being the name of the process server's wife. That process server, identified in the declaration as Mr. Shaw, declined to continue making attempts to contact O'Neal, "fearing for his and his wife's safety."
Unfortunately for the poor exhausted process servers, the judge ruled Tuesday that efforts to complete a physical service must continue. Apparently Texas law would tend to support electronic service in cases like this one, where a defendant is successfully evading process servers in three-dimensional space. Plaintiffs argued that since they believe O'Neal lives in Texas, and since service was attempted in Texas, and since they believe they had their closest brush with O'Neal in Texas, the court can decide that Texas is "where service is made," even if it would in fact be made via the backchannels of Elon Musk's rotting Dogecoin pump-and-dump operation. The judge disagreed, finding that the application of Texas law would be perfectly arbitrary in a case where documents are transmitted electronically, for a complaint filed in Florida, which after all is an entirely different state. The ruling came with a warning, too, that "the Court will not continue to tolerate such violations or frivolous arguments."
So the plaintiffs may not send class-action court documents via social media direct messages, and Shaq is once again on the run. The plaintiffs will simply have to go back to their futile attempts to track down one of the largest and most famous people in the world who also happens to have a high-profile, public-facing job. The full ruling is embedded below.