Newspaper of General Circulation

When a publication believes it meets the requirements to be adjudicated as a newspaper newspaper of general circulation (NGC), it can file a petition with the Superior Court requesting the right to run legal notices in compliance with various statutes (e.g., publishing fictitious business name statements).

However, what happens when a newspaper files for adjudication, but it doesn’t meet those requirements? The answer is that the legislature created a system that is largely self-effectuating since there is no government body (other than the courts) that scrutinize such petitions.

Instead, it is up to any individual (or individual on behalf of an entity) to file a a contest to a petition for adjudication. (Gov. Code section 6022.) In filing this contest, a contestant can obtain the facts through formal or informal discovery, then present the evidence and the law at a formal hearing in court. (Gov. Code section 6023.)

Obviously, if the facts support the adjudication, don’t bother. But, if they don’t, then go for it. A lawyer with experience in adjudications can advise if the contest stands much chance of success, as the criteria for adjudication are subject to evolving judicial interpretations. Some cases are clear, some are not.

Recently, we filed a contest to an adjudication order that had been obtained by misrepresenting the facts to the court. We were able to present the true facts and the other side decided to toss in the towel by ceasing publication.

In another recent case, we deposed the petitioner (the person seeking adjudication) and exposed the weakness of the facts he’d presented to the court. His petition was denied.

In a third case, the petitioner testified that the newspaper had certain subscribers. During the noon recess, we called some of them and learned that they had not paid for their subscriptions (a requirement). We presented this fact to the petitioner’s lawyer, who withdrew the petition after conferring with his client. (Thankfully, the lawyer was ethical and was not going to present false “facts” to the court.)

Every case is different and the facts matter. Assemble the facts, compare them to the law (see Gov. Code sections 6000 and 6008) and then decide if a contest makes sense or not, especially since they are so expensive to mount in court.

Given the importance of an adjudication, it is always wise to consult with an attorney experienced in California newspapers of general circulation, as the law is not as simply as it may appear.

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About James J. Manning, Jr.

James J. Manning, Jr. is a Senior Attorney with the Reid & Hellyer law firm in Riverside and Mission Viejo and has been with the firm throughout his career since 1976. He practices media law, civil litigation, construction law and mediation. Jim holds an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbard and has been named as one of the Inland Empire's best lawyers by Inland Empire Magazine for several years.

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About Scott Talkov

Scott Talkov is a Shareholder in the Riverside office of Reid & Hellyer, one of the Inland Empire's oldest law firms. He practices real estate, business and bankruptcy litigation. He has been repeatedly named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine.

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