Monday, March 7, 2011

Are Notice by Publication Statutes Finally on Their Way Out?

At the beginning of January, I wrote a post entitled "Isn't it Time to Bring 'Notice by Publication' Statutes into the Twenty-first Century"? The crux of the post was that as print newspapers have become obsolete and expensive to produce vis-a-vis their digital counterparts, "notice by publication" statutes have also become obsolete and expensive ways of conveying notice to the public. My solution was to amend notice by publication statutes to allow for online publication, where it would be cheaper to publish and where the notice would have a better opportunity of being seen by the party being noticed. It turns out that that time may be coming sooner rather than later.

This morning's edition of the ISBA's E-Clips linked to an article entitled "Illinois could remove public notice from newspapers." According to the article, "A bill pending in the General Assembly would let cash-strapped governments post public notices online instead of paying to run them in print. While the shift has been considered in other states, Illinois would be the first in the nation to drop the requirement that notices run in local newspapers, according to newspaper associations."

The only people who seem to be upset by the legislation are publishers of small newspapers, who rely on notice publications for a significant portion of their revenue. For instance, the publisher of the News-Progress, a paper distributed near Decatur, said that "17 percent of the newspaper's advertising revenue comes from public notices." On the other hand, "12 metropolitan counties--Dekalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Madison, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, Tazewell, Will and Winnebago--spent nearly $5 million on public notices over four years." So while many of the small newspapers will likely suffer or even have to cease printing, it will save taxpayers a lot of money over time. It will also increase the likelihood that the notice will actually be read, and it will allow anyone in the world to read the notice, such as an interested party in another state or country.

The article does not specify how the legislation would affect private parties, as my previous post addressed. However, the spirit behind the legislation is the same--that publishing notice in newspapers is expensive and ineffective. Therefore, it would make sense to extend that rationale to the notice by publication statutes that are binding on private parties. This would probably mean that many small newspapers would go out of business, but, collectively, it would save state citizens millions of dollars and better achieve the notice by publication statute's objective of noticing individuals who cannot be found for personal service.

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