The Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Business Review met in court last week in their most recent scrimmage in the battle over the right to print legal classified ads.
The case is in the hands of the state legal system after both sides presented their cases for summary judgement before District Court Judge Deborah Bail on April 18. Judge Bail took the case under advisement. A written decision will be issued sometime in the future.
At stake is the right to publish legal notices, the classified-style ads that appear in both papers. The material is usually ignored by the average reader, but the tiny lines of black type mean big revenue for the papers that publish them.
Idaho Business Review publisher Rick Carpenter has previously stated that his paper has lost roughly $200,000 in legal notices since the Statesman began informing its customers that it was illegal to print the notices in the Business Review.
The Statesman filed the original lawsuit in October 2006.
Idaho Statesman lawyer Dave Gratton argued before the court that state law, amended in 1994, 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 the Statesman's paid circulation is more than 64,000.
Idaho Business Review attorney Newal Squyres said state law makes no such regulation, instead allowing private notices to be printed elsewhere unless specifically prohibited.
"We do not believe the Legislature intended this statute to cover private notices based on the language of the statute, its legislative history and the fact that there are over 130 other statutes that do not require notices be published in the largest paper," Squyres told BW after the hearing.
Gratton pointed to the fact that the Statesman's lawsuit is supported by organizations representing both daily and weekly newspapers as evidence that publishing private notices is outside the norm.
Gratton also stated that the lawsuit has nothing to do with money, as has been asserted in the Idaho Business Review's case.
"It's been brewing for a fair amount of time," he said. "It's about making sure the statute is complied with and people who are the target of the notice will find it."
Neither Gratton nor Squyres would comment on whether their clients would consider an appeal depending on the outcome of Judge Bail's decision.