Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Judge Rebuffs Daily Journal Bid to Cut MetNews Legal Advertisements
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Daily Journal Corporation has failed in its bid to persuade a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to slash the number of legal notices that the Metropolitan News-Enterprise is eligible to publish.
In an written order, a copy of which received yesterday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Bruguera denied DJC’s motion to modify the 1952 judgment entitling the newspaper to publish legal advertisements.
In order to publish such notices in California, a newspaper must meet certain criteria, spelled out in the Government Code, and secure a court adjudication. DJC, publisher of the Los Angeles Daily Journal and other newspapers, petitioned the court to narrow the adjudication for the MetNews by eliminating its entitlement to publish notices relating to cities other than the City of Los Angeles.
The affected legal advertisements include probate notices, which must be published in the city in which the decedent resided, and foreclosure notices, which must be published in a newspaper adjudicated for the city in which the property is located.
The MetNews is adjudicated for cities in Los Angeles County that were not in existence in 1923. It was in that year that a “grandfather” statute was enacted freeing newspapers that were already established from certain new requirements.
The Enterprise, which was founded in 1901, merged with the Metropolitan News in 1987, and that year, the 1952 judgment was modified to reflect the change of the newspaper’s name to Metropolitan News-Enterprise. It was further modified in 2001 to include reference to additional cities in the county, incorporated after 1923.
On Feb. 27, DJC filed a motion to roll back the adjudication to the City of Los Angeles, alone.
Lisa Grace-Kellogg, general counsel for Metropolitan News Company (which publishes the MetNews), argued that the newspaper is entitled to publish legal notices for all geographical areas for which it had entitlement in 1923. She noted that the California Supreme Court held in 1964 in In re Norwalk Call, 62 Cal.2d 185, that a newspaper established in an area as of 1923 was not affected by “changes in the political structure or names of governmental entities within that area [which] have occurred after 1923.”
Michael Kirby, of the San Diego law firm of Post Kirby Noonan & Sweat, argued on behalf of DJC that the Norwalk Call decision does not stand for the proposition for which MNC cited it and that no newspaper may be adjudicated for multiple cities. He also argued that in gaining its expanded adjudication in 2001, MNC was legally obliged to publish a notice of the hearing in a newspaper in each of the affected cities.
Norwalk, the situs of the newspaper whose status gave rise to the case which was the focus of the present litigation, is among the cities included in the MetNews’ expanded adjudication.
Bruguera, by minute order on Aug. 27, denied DJC’s motion and directed Grace-Kellogg to prepare a proposed order. The judge said she would act after considering any objections by DJC.
The judgment pointed to procedural infirmities of the motion and to erroneous legal propositions underlying it. It concluded:
“While it is doubtful that DJC is entitled to an examination of the merits of its challenge, for the reasons set forth above, when the merits are scrutinized, the conclusion is inescapable that the challenge is untenable.”
Grace-Kellogg commented yesterday that the MetNews, in seeking its 2001 modification, was following the example of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
“The Los Angeles Daily Journal is also a pre-1923 newspaper,” she noted, suggesting it would have been “more productive” for that newspaper to have sought a modification of its own decree rather than seeking to attack the MetNews’ adjudication.
Kirby did not return a MetNews call for comment yesterday.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company