by Karen E. Culp
The Springfield News-Leader will not present evidence at a Feb. 18 hearing in opposition to the Daily Events petition to carry legal notices.
The News-Leader wants its protest to remain on file with the court as a matter of record in the case, according to a letter from News-Leader attorney Link Knauer, filed with Judge J. Miles Sweeney, the presiding judge in the legal notice case.
At a January hearing, the News-Leader said it protested the application of the Daily Events as a newspaper legally qualified to publish notices and advertisements under the provisions of Chapter 493 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. Chapter 493 outlines the qualifications for a newspaper to be eligible to publish such notices.
Among those are that, in a city of 100,000 or more, the newspaper be published daily and that it be a newspaper of general circulation.
According to a document filed to the legal publication board, which consists of all of the circuit court judges sitting as a panel, the "Daily Events is simply not a newspaper of 'general circulation' as that term in defined in the statutes, nor does it meet the legal standard laid down by our Supreme Court" in a 1955 case.
The document goes on to say: "Daily Events circulates only to an extremely limited audience; it does not reach any significant percentage of the residents of the city of Springfield or Greene County; it has no pass-along value because it does not contain any news of general interest to the community; and it is simply inadequate to achieve the legislature's objective of giving public notice.
"Authorizing the Daily Events to publish such notices denies The News-Leader the protection of the statutes to which it is entitled, in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Missouri and United States Constitution. It would wrongly interpret our publication statutes by failing to interpret the statutes so as to achieve their manifest objective of getting required public notices to the public."
The Daily Events is a legal notice publication that publishes Monday through Friday and has a circulation of about 375. Publisher Jeff Schrag said the News-Leader's decision not to present evidence "takes care of everything" and that he feels "no threat" to his publication's ability to continue.
Previously, Schrag said he feared the protest and subsequent presentation of evidence might lead to his paper's being disqualified and therefore put out of business.
The hearing will go on Feb. 18 without presentation of evidence by the News-Leader, and until that time, the council of judges has signed documents granting both publications the right to publish legal notices.
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