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Daily Events eligible for legal notices

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

A council of Greene County judges ruled Feb. 18 that both The Daily Events and the Springfield News-Leader are eligible to publish legal notices.

The hearing was continued from January, when representatives from the News-Leader filed a protest against The Daily Events, questioning its eligibility to publish legal notices as a newspaper. The News-Leader then filed a letter to Judge Miles Sweeney saying it would not present evidence in the case, but wanted its protest to remain on the record.

The Daily Events Feb. 15 filed a response to the News-Leader's protest. In the response, one of the attorneys for The Daily Events, James E. Bowles, wrote, "I can honestly state to the court that the research done by Mr. Miller and myself and our client has uncovered no appellate case anywhere in this state that would support the contention of the News-Leader that The Daily Events is not a qualified newspaper.

"Indeed, every single appellate decision in this state has been researched and supports the qualification of Daily Events and any other newspaper such as Daily Events which prints mainly legal and courthouse type news."

The matter was heard by all the circuit judges in Greene County, sitting as a council. Such a newspaper hearing takes place every two years in a city with population of 100,000 or more in order to determine which publications will carry the legal notices. In the past, there have been no protests such as the one the News-Leader entered, said Jeff Schrag, who has published The Daily Events since 1995. The newspaper has existed since 1881.

This was not the first time The Daily Events' eligibility had been tested locally. An earlier case was tried in Christian County, wherein a judge ruled that The Daily Events "is a newspaper eligible to publish all types of legal notices in Christian County," according to a copy of the judgment filed by Judge James Eiffert.

The issue was litigated in Christian County in the case Events Publishing Company dba Daily Events vs. Ozark Publishing Inc. dba Christian County Headliner. The case went to trial June 11, 1997. In January 1996, Daily Events began publishing information gleaned from the public records of Christian County and began publishing federal court filings in Springfield, some of which concerned bankruptcies of Christian County residents.

In his judgment, Eiffert ruled that Daily Events "is a newspaper of general circulation as that term is used in Sec. 493.050 R.S.Mo. and the cases interpreting it. ... Daily Events is a 'newspaper' even though interest in matters published therein may be limited to a select few. Court has found that plaintiff is a newspaper; is admitted to the post office as second class mail; has been published as required by statute for more than three years; and has bona fide subscribers as required by the statute.

"The only real issue in this case is whether or not plaintiff is 'of general circulation' in Christian County. The court rejects intervenor's contention that the content of the plaintiff's newspaper determines whether it is a newspaper of general circulation. Plaintiff's newspaper is in circulation in Christian County, and the limitation on content and small number of subscribers do not (affect) this court's conclusion that plaintiff's newspaper is in 'general circulation' in Christian County."

Link Knauer, who represents the News-Leader in its objections, also represented Ozark Publishing in the Christian County case.

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