Politics

Rutledge Summary of Opinions Released: July 12, 2022

Opinion Number: 2021-065 Requestor:  Representative Danny Watson

Q1) Is there a newspaper of general circulation in Little River County for purposes of Ark. Code sections 14-14-104, -105; 14-14-905; 14-14-917; 14-16-105; 14-16-106; 14-21-102; 14-22-101; 22-9-2, -3; 26-36-203; 26-37-102; and 26-37-107?  Q2) Is there a newspaper of general circulation in Little River County for purposes of Ark. Code section 16-3-101 et seq.?  Q3a) If so, does the Little River Post newspaper qualify as a newspaper of general circulation in Little River County?  Q3b) If so, does the Texarkana Gazette newspaper qualify as a newspaper of general circulation in Little River County?  Q4) Can a county official or litigant rely upon online newspapers for required publications under the foregoing laws?  Due to the digitization of newspapers online, do online newspaper publications count as circulation of a newspaper of general circulation?  Q5a) Could a county by ordinance identify a county website or county affiliated website as public location for purposes of posting in public places under Ark. Code section 14-14-104(b)?  Q5b) Could a county by ordinance identify a county website or county affiliated website as public location for purposes of posting in public places under Ark. Code section 16-3-101 et seq.? RESPONSE: In response to your first two questions, whether a particular newspaper qualifies as a newspaper of general circulation requires a factual determination, and I lack sufficient facts to provide a definitive answer here.  Similarly, whether a publication qualifies as a “legal newspaper” also depends on certain facts.  Therefore, no response is necessary to both parts of your third question.  I also cannot provide a definitive answer to your fourth question given the state of Arkansas law.  Only express legislative action will resolve this question.  As to both parts of your fifth question, the answer is a qualified “yes.”  But whether a court would accept a county’s designation of a website as a “public place” will ultimately be a factual question.

Opinion Number: 2021-067 Requestor:  Senator Ronald Caldwell

Q1) Whether there is a newspaper of general circulation in Woodruff County for purposes of publications required by counties under: Ark Code sections 14-14-104; 14-14-105; 14-14-905; 14-14-917; 14-16-105; 14-16-106; 14-21-102; 14-22-101; 22-9-203; 26-36-203; 26-37-102; and 26-37-107?  Q2) Whether there is a newspaper of general circulation in Woodruff County for purposes of legal notices in court such as required under Ark Code section 16-3-101 et seq.?  Q3) Can a county official or litigant rely upon online newspapers for required publications under the foregoing laws?  Q3a) Due to the digitization of newspapers online, do online newspaper publications count as circulation of a newspaper of general circulation?  Q4) Could a county by ordinance identify a county website or county affiliated website as a public location for purposes of posting in public places under Ark Code section 14-14-105?  Q4a) Could a county by ordinance identify a county website or county affiliated website as a public location for purposes of posting in public places under Ark Code section 16-3-101 et seq.?  RESPONSE: Regarding questions 3 and 4, I have addressed them in Op. Attorney Gen. 2021-065, a copy of which is enclosed for your convenience.  With respect to questions 1 and 2 however, while Opinion 2021-065 did not provide a definitive answer whether the county referenced therein had either a “newspaper of general circulation” or a “legal newspaper” as defined by statute under the facts as you have presented, it is clear that Woodruff County has neither a newspaper of general circulation nor a legal newspaper.

Opinion Number: 2022-003 Requestor:  Senator Breanna Davis

Q1) What are the requirements for an online news outlet to be eligible to publish legal notices?  Q2) If River Valley Now obtains second-class mailing privileges and mails printed copies of their online news to subscribers who pay for it (their news is free to their readers, but they have local businesses who advertise/sponsor and could qualify as subscribers), would they meet the standard?  RESPONSE: With regard to your first question, online news publications are generally ineligible to publish “legal notices” required by state law. Express legislative changes would be needed.  As to your second question, I lack sufficient information given the limited criteria you provide to be able to provide a definitive answer.

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