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Legals: The Battle Continues


While the Idaho Statesman is claiming victory in the battle for the right to publish government and public legal notices, the Idaho Business Review isn't giving up the fight yet.

"We have a little different perspective than the Statesman does," said Business Review Vice President and Publisher Rick Carpenter. "[The ruling] doesn't give either one of us totally what we wanted. The Statesman wanted a blanket policy that they get to run all the legal notices. They didn't get it, although they're claiming it."

Carpenter said he is still considering appealing the decision. "We thought we had a good position that we could defend all the way to the Supreme Court," he said.

Carpenter has also asked his lawyer, Newal Squyres, to send a letter to the Statesman, asking the paper to run a clarification to its story published May 18.

The ruling in the case that pitted the largest newspaper in the state against the business-centric, Boise-based weekly was issued by District Court Judge Deborah Bail late Wednesday evening. The case deals with the right to publish legal notices, the classified-style advertisements that serve as public notification of legal proceedings.

The Statesman filed a lawsuit in October, 2006, claiming the Business Review's practice of publishing many of these advertisements was illegal.

Idaho Statesman lawyer Dave Gratton argued before the court last month that state law limits the publication of legal notices by both government agencies and private parties to papers of general interest, defined as the papers with the largest circulations in their respective geographic areas. (The Business Review's paid circulation is 3,312, while theStatesman's paid circulation is more than 64,000.)

But Carpenter, who called the written ruling a little confusing, said it makes a distinction between listings that are required by state law to run in the paper with the largest paid circulation, and those which list a requirement for a paper of general interest, which he says is any newspaper that qualifies under the other rules of legal notification.

The Statesman said it was vindicated by the decision.

"We're pleased that this ruling so clearly reaffirms the legislative intent of public notice law, which is to achieve the broadest possible distribution of public notices," said Statesman Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish in a May 18 article.

While Carpenter said he expects his paper will lose many of the lucrative advertisements, the Business Review will continue to make a case to individual advertisers to continue running whatever legals possible in the paper.

Since the Statesman began telling advertisers it was illegal to place legals in the Business Review two years ago, Carpenter estimates his paper has lost between $150,000 to $200,000 per year. Conversely, Gratton was quoted in the Statesman Friday morning, claiming the amount of revenue brought in through legals is "miniscule."

Carpenter said the Business Review will begin notifying their advertisers of the situation and "let them make a decision."