In August and September the Louisiana newspaper world was abuzz because of the arrival of a piece of mail. That letter, sent to member papers and several public bodies--including sheriffs, school boards and Parish governments—was sent by Civicsource and essentially accused our members of overcharging local bodies for public notice ads relating to tax sales and adjudicated sales.
Civicsource is in the business of facilitating tax sales and tax adjudicated sales in Louisiana. That means they interact with our members all the time: placing the required ads for those tax sales. After the letter went out, my phone rang off the hook for days. My response letter on our behalf was quite strong. At the end of the day, Civicsource and LPA have a disagreement about which rate applies to tax sales which continues to this day.
At the heart of the debate is the language in LA. R.S. 43:205 which states that the rate for “judicial proceedings, the sale of property under judicial process, or any other legal proceedings of any kind” should be 90% of the commercial advertising rate charged for a similar volume of business. Now, I’ve spent some significant time researching the history of the law, and almost everyone on our side agrees that the intent of this language was to include tax sales.
The public notice law does not specifically provide for adjudicated sales or tax sales, but a tax sale is more akin to judicial proceedings, the sale of property under judicial process, or any other legal proceedings of any kind than to the running of an agenda or other public notice by the local government. Importantly, this cost is passed on to the purchaser—so the government doesn’t ultimately pay it, your fellow citizens do.
Still, Civicsource’s wrong-headed letter was a good reminder to all of our members that you should periodically review what rates you are charging to your local governments and sheriffs. Good relationships with those government agencies are essential to preserve due process through our responsibilities of public notice.
As a quick reminder: across 90% of your commercial open rate applies to judicial proceedings, the sale of property under judicial process, or any other legal proceedings of any kind. This includes things like succession advertisements, missing persons and sheriff’s sales. We also believe this includes tax sales, as noted above.
In New Orleans, the maximum rate is .31 cents per agate line for “State Agencies” like the Department of Transportation and Development or the Department of Natural Resources according to La. R.S. 43:205(C). The maximum rate to the local government agencies in Orleans Parish is .37 cents per agate line according to La. R.S. 43:147(D).
In Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette the State Agency rate is .28 cents per agate line (La. R.S. 43:205(B). The local government rate for official proceedings, like minutes, agendas and notices, is .33
cents per agate line. La. R.S. 43:147(C). These rates only apply in Parishes with cities of more than 100,000 people but less than 300,000.
Everywhere else, Louisiana R.S. 43:205(A) states that State Agencies have a maximum rate of $5 per square rate and local governments get a $6 capped rate according to La. R.S. 43:147(B).
Remember that all of these rates are the “maximum” – a local government chooses its official journal each June and if there are multiple newspapers qualified, the rate may be much lower. In any event, check your rates and make sure you’re charging the right one!
Scott Sternberg is general counsel to the Louisiana Press Association and practices law with Sternberg, Naccari, & White, LLC in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Scott operates the LPA legal hotline and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; www.snw.law; 504-324-2141. This column is not to be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship or giving legal advice. You should consult with a licensed professional about your business and legal obligations.