By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

Dennis Hetzel

The Executive Committee of the Ohio Newspaper Association Board of Trustees has authorized support of Civitas Media (formerly Ohio Community Media) with a “friend-of-the-court” brief in an appeal of a ruling in Darke County over qualifications to publish public notices under Ohio statutes.

The litigation involves The Daily Advocate, an ONA member newspaper, and the publisher of a weekly, Sunday publication, the Early Bird. The appeal will seek to overturn a ruling by Judge Jonathan P. Hein that upheld a finding by the county’s attorney that The Early Bird met the qualification standards that were revised in 2011.

The Executive Committee reviewed this case along with ONA Board Member and General Counsel Lou Colombo.  The committee, chaired by ONA President David E. Dix, concluded that the issues raised in the case could be impactful on many ONA members, and that the case could clarify ambiguities in the law.

Civitas maintains that the Early Bird does not meet the requirements that say a qualifying newspaper must have a valid distribution list, the ability to add subscribers to that list and verification of mail or carrier delivery by postal statement or independent audit.

The lower court ruled otherwise. Click here to view a complete copy of the judge’s decision in Darke County if you would like more detail.

The ONA also is monitoring a court case in Coshocton in which the dispute involves whether a weekly newspaper is qualified if it does not publish every week of the year. The ONA is not taking a formal position because the outcome of this case could affect some members positively and others negatively.

The notice of appeal in the Darke County case was filed in late December, and a ruling will take several months.  Colombo, a partner in Baker Hostetler’s Cleveland office and long-time advisor for ONA’s legal hotline, will represent ONA and coordinate efforts with the attorney for Civitas Media.

Click here for the Daily Advocate’s article on the appeal filing.

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