A&A: Can an individual publish a legal notice in a newspaper??

Q: Is there any legal reason why  an individual would not be allowed to place a paid legal notice in a newspaper?

The content is to inform the public about a woman being unlawfully tormented and hunted in the judicial system.

A: I believe you are asking whether a newspaper that publishes legal notices is required to publish all legal notices submitted to it. Please understand that I am not familiar with the specifics of the specific laws on this issue in states other than California.

However, my understanding is that your state permits local governments to designate a newspaper of general circulation serving its area as the official newspaper for the publication of any ordinance, public hearing, or other matter requiring public notice, or for the publication of public and legal notices that are otherwise required by law.

But that the system for public notices may vary greatly from county to county and that some counties designate a single newspaper, others rotate among several different publications, some use community newspapers, and some use national publications that are distributed within the area.

However, newspapers have a First Amendment right to determine the content of their publications. Miami Herald Co. v. Tornillo. Thus, as a very general matter, even when a newspaper agrees to publish public and legal notices, it may refuse to publish a particular notice.

Most states have provisions for alternate means of fulfilling public and legal notice requirements if the authorized newspapers decline to publish a public notice. It is, however, conceivable that a newspaper in contracting with a municipality to run public and legal notices — may have waived its right to refuse publication of such notices.

It is unclear from your inquiry whether the notice you seek to publish is a formal legal notice or public notice, that is, one the publication of which in a newspaper of general circulation is specifically required by law, or whether it is just information that you believe it is important for the public to know. If it is the latter, then a newspaper has no obligation to publish it.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.