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City of Plainfield v. Courier-News

Decided: May 30, 1975.

THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
THE COURIER-NEWS, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND THE DAILY JOURNAL, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Halpern, Crahay and Wood. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wood, J.s.c., temporarily assigned. Halpern, P.J.A.D. (dissenting).

Wood

The judgment of the Law Division is affirmed, essentially for the reasons stated by Judge McGrath in his letter opinion. We recognize that the sum effect of the judgment is a holding that a newspaper may have more than one place of publication. Hunterdon County Democrat, Inc. v. Recorder Pub. Co. , 117 N.J. Super. 552 (Ch. Div. 1971). The Legislature has apparently acquiesced in the holding of that case, and absent its expression to the contrary, In re Keogh-Dwyer , 45 N.J. 117 (1965), the soundest judicial course, in our view, is case-by-case treatment on the issue of "publication."

In any event, as Judge McGrath noted, Plainfield, being a city, may designate an official newspaper, N.J.S.A. 40:53-1,

but in doing so is not bound by the restrictive provisions of N.J.S.A. 50:53-2. Plainfield essentially sought a declaratory judgment as to whether respondent, The Courier News , was "qualified to be designated its official newspaper * * *." N.J.S.A. 40:53-1. The Courier-News has many incidents of publication in Plainfield. It maintains an office and a staff of at least seven employees in the city, does a substantial part of its business there and has its greatest circulation there. Both historically and at present it is Plainfield's newspaper and satisfies the legislative criteria of stability and continuous existence in the city. In re Bond Printing Co., Inc. , 135 N.J.L. 478 (E. & A. 1947). Whether it would satisfy, in any given case, the myriad publishing requirements mandated as to various types of official notices in N.J.S.A. Titles 40 and 40A*fn1 should await determination when the question is raised in an appropriate case.

The judgment is affirmed.

HALPERN, P.J.A.D. (dissenting). The narrow issue presented in this declaratory judgment suit is whether the City of Plainfield may designate The Courier-News (Courier) as its official newspaper under N.J.S.A. 40:53-1. This statute is merely permissive, and I agree with the majority that by a literal reading of the statute Plainfield may designate the Courier as its official newspaper. I also agree that whether the Courier is authorized to publish legal notices required by law to be advertised by Plainfield, requires a determination as to whether the Courier satisfies "the myriad publishing requirements mandated as to various types of official notices" in a host of different statutes.

However, I am unable to agree that "a newspaper may have more than one place of publication." N.J.S.A. 40:53-2, while it excepts cities from its terms, clearly mandates that municipal ordinances and other public notices which any municipality

is required by law to publish (unless otherwise specifically provided) shall be published in at least "one newspaper published and circulating in the municipality, and if there be no such newspaper, then in at least one newspaper published in the county in which the municipality is located and circulating in the municipality."*fn1 Thus, the nub of the issue is to determine what the Legislature meant when it used the term "published" in various statutes dealing with problems of giving public notice.

While it is difficult, and at times a precarious pastime, to arrive at the legislative intent which emanates from the great variety of statutes on the subject, as set out in the trial judge's opinion, I am convinced it was the Legislature's underlying intent to have a local newspaper utilized, whenever possible, to give the local community notice of proposed governmental action. To that end the Legislature, in most of the statutes dealing with the subject of public advertising, required the governing body involved to place the mandated notices in newspapers "published" in the area affected -- although other conditions, in varying forms, were also appended. It appears obvious the Legislature envisaged that a newspaper is capable of having but one official or principal office of publication -- or put another way, can only be "published" in one place. It may have as many branch offices as it desires, as does the Courier since it maintains small staffs in five branch offices in various counties to carry out its function to provide news coverage for many municipalities in at least six counties.

Admittedly, the place where a newspaper is physically printed is not, standing alone, its principal office of publication. I envision a principal office of publication, or where a newspaper is deemed "published," as the hub of a wheel whose spokes represent its various branch offices where parts of its operations are carried out so that it can function as a ...


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