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Norfolk court rules on ‘legal notice’ issue

A newspaper that wants to publish legal notices does not need a court order, a Norfolk Circuit Court ruled today in In Re: Dow Jones & Co.

Newspapers that meet the requirements of Va. Code § 8.01-324(A) may publish legal notices; no court ruling is necessary, said Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles E. Poston. He dismissed a petition for authority to publish legal notices filed by Dow Jones. Dow’s move into the Virginia legal notice market earlier this year has prompted litigation in Richmond, Henrico, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

Initially, Poston granted the Dow Jones petition on June 1, but he vacated that order after The Virginian-Pilot and Landmark Media Enterprises intervened. On Nov. 18, Poston dismissed the petition, saying the circuit court has no subject matter jurisdiction.

“Service by publication is a risky business,” Poston said, and it may be “time for the General Assembly to revisit the issue of notice by publication in light of the variety of electronic means of mass communication available.”

The legal notice issue already has been teed up for the high court, as the Supreme Court of Virginia granted a writ on Oct. 27 in Virginian Pilot Media Companies LLC v. Dow Jones & Co., a case from Virginia Beach.
By Deborah Elkins

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