Public notices should stay in the newspapers

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Public notices required by the courts are valuable tools of our democracy because they provide due process for Americans who will be affected by government action and help make the judicial process more transparent.

Posting reviews does not guarantee that the targeted person will see the review, but it is the best good faith effort to let someone know that their life is about to be affected if they do not respond. not when the normal service of the notice cannot be completed.

The Indiana Supreme Court, however, is considering a rule change that would effectively reduce such notice. The proposed change to trial rule 4.13 would allow a lawyer to place such a notice on a website controlled by the Supreme Court rather than publishing the notice in a local newspaper.

These notices could relate to the sale of real estate through mortgage foreclosure; the change of the child’s name; the opening of the administration of an estate; or a general notice of the filing of a legal action when the defendant has not been informed.

Newspapers have been the place Hoosiers have known to seek information about their community since before Indiana was a state. The then territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, instigated Elihu Stout to transport a press by boat and oxcart to Vincennes for the sole purpose of creating a newspaper so that government notices could be published and disseminated to the public.

It is illogical to expect Hoosiers to regularly log into the Indiana Supreme Court website to determine if there is any legal action that affects them, their businesses, other family members. or friends. The chances that they will learn of such a lawsuit from the newspaper are much greater – either by seeing it themselves or by learning from someone else who read it in the newspaper.

Efficiently moving newspaper notices to a state website will reduce the chances of those notices being seen by Hoosiers. The Indiana Supreme Court should look for ways to expand the scope of public notices, not narrow that scope.

The cost of publication was the only factor mentioned as justification for this proposal.

Prior to the publication of this proposal, the Hoosier State Press Association had already committed to proposing to the state legislature a modernization of the state law on legal publicity and the publication of legal opinions (IC 5-3 -1). This proposal will include revising the current pricing for sheriff’s notices of sale (mortgage foreclosure); the opening of the administration of an estate; a petition to change a name; and a summons or notice of prosecution that will reduce the current average cost.

The data collected so far raises the question of whether cost is a valid concern for effective justice. HSPA information collected from 60 newspapers shows that the average cost of printing public notices for estate administration is $ 101; for the summons at $ 186; and for the name change to $ 126.

The cost of a public notice when complainants or interested parties cannot be identified is a small price for due process when taking into account the hourly rate of a lawyer typically ranges from $ 100 to $ 300. Fees for court filing and a sheriff’s notice can typically range from $ 160 to $ 270.

The HSPA also questions the need to spend taxpayer money to create a special website for court-related public notices, while the HSPA already has a website that aggregates public notices (www.indianapublicnotices.com).

The HSPA has also committed to limiting the costs associated with issuing a public notice for indigent complainants and has attempted to push for language on this issue over the past two legislative sessions, working with two organizations that provide free legal services for disadvantaged people.

Indiana newspapers, through the Hoosier State Press Association, want to work with the Indiana Supreme Court to improve the public notice process. We suggest the use of court approved templates to help with the appropriate terminology for pro litigants to publish notices to themselves and ask newspapers to upload notices published / published in the state’s MyCase registration program so that lawyers are informed when opinions have been properly given or assist a lawyer informer when an error occurs which must be rectified to avoid legal delays or lack of due process.

The HSPA recognizes that newspapers benefit financially from publishing public notices – as does any business that serves government and private clients – and switching from newspaper publication to government website publication would reduce much-needed revenue. as Indiana’s newspaper industry recovers from the pandemic. Thirteen newspapers in Indiana have closed their doors in the past 16 months.

It would be ironic for the Indiana Supreme Court to inadvertently push other newspapers into insolvency because the two institutions have a symbiotic relationship. Courts derive their power from public support for the judicial process. When the process or a judge is attacked, it is the news media that informs Hoosiers of an unjustified breach of the integrity of the judiciary. It is the local newspaper that covers court cases in the county, which reinforces the importance of the rule of law in a democracy. Conversely, it is the judicial process that helps preserve the First Amendment and the right of newspapers to gather information, shielding the press from government interference.

The Hoosier State Press Association will urge the Indiana Supreme Court to change this proposal from a choice of newspaper publication or court website to a public notice process distributed in newspapers and published on the court website which preserves the four essential elements of effective notice: public notice; checking that notices have been correctly published / posted; archiving of reviews for legal and historical purposes; and an independent distribution system to ensure the system is not corrupted.

Steve Key is executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association.

Steve Key is the executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association. Send your comments to editorial@therepublic.com.


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