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Case pits Wall Street Journal against state dailies

Seven Virginia circuit judges have set aside orders at the request of major newspapers in the state even though they concluded that the newspapers lacked standing to challenge the orders.

At least one judge, Virginia Beach Circuit Judge A. Bonwill Shockley, refused to do so, however, and her case is the one that was before the Supreme Court of Virginia today.

Justice Lawrence L. Koontz Jr. said some members of the court have “grave doubts about what the trial court did” but questioned whether an appellate court could get past the standing hurdle to correct the error.

At issue was an order authorizing The Wall Street Journal to take advertising for legal notices. In this and most cases, the WSJ obtained the orders before the major dailies in the state were aware of the request.

Once they found out about them, The Virginian-Pilot and other major state newspapers contended that no such order is necessary under Virginia Code § 8.01-324(A) and that circuit judges lack subject matter jurisdiction to enter one. The state newspapers argue that the order places in doubt the validity of notices in papers without such an order, even though those notices have been published for decades without one.

The case is Virginian-Pilot Media Companies LLC v. Dow Jones & Company Inc., Record No. 091661. A decision is expected in early December. An earlier VLW article detailed the dispute.

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