Fifth District appellate judges rejected a claim that a legal notice in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch should have appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.
They ruled on April 1 that they lacked jurisdiction to overturn a ruling that publication in the Post-Dispatch met the requirements of Illinois law.
St. Clair County Associate Judge Brian Babka presided over the News-Democrat’s challenge to the legal notice.
The notice stated that Raven Securities applied for deeds to several St. Clair County properties in a delinquent tax sale proceeding.
Landlord Ed Sieron owns Raven Securities and many other businesses.
After the Post-Dispatch ran the notice, Springfield lawyer Donald Craven petitioned for the News-Democrat to intervene in the proceeding.
He argued that state law required publication in “some newspaper published in the municipality” or “some newspaper in the county.”
Craven alleged defective publication and asked Babka to set aside all actions taken in reliance on the notice.
At a hearing last April, Craven said, “The press has standing to intervene in matters even when they have no interest in the underlying merits of the action.”
He said the Post-Dispatch is not published in the county or the state.
Babka said, “Do you think the reason that the law required the publication was to give notice or to create a revenue source for a local newspaper?”
Craven said, “It’s to give notice…It’s the most local form of notice that is possible, and publishing it in the Post-Dispatch or publishing it in a newspaper of general circulation in the county does not meet the requirements of the statute.”
Babka said, “Any evidence that it’s any less notice than putting it in the Belleville News-Democrat?”
Craven said, “Not all of these notices would go in the Belleville News-Democrat. There are other local newspapers throughout the county.”
Babka said, “Any evidence that putting it in the Post-Dispatch is less notice than putting it in the Legal Recorder?”
Craven said no.
Babka said, “Or the Madison County Record?”
Craven said no.
For Raven Securities, Alvin Paulson of Belleville said, “The only reason for their intervention is to create a monopoly or to try to create a monopoly on publication of notices in St. Clair County.”
“Allowing a newspaper to intervene every time they don’t think a notice is correct, in thousands of tax sales, I mean it would be horrible precedent,” Paulson said.
“They are trying to do this for one motive only, and that is financial. They are lining their pockets with money, and that’s not a proper reason to intervene.”
Craven said many papers besides the News-Democrat were eligible.
“This is an effort by the News-Democrat to protect the legislative standards established for the publication of notice in tax proceedings in Illinois,” Craven said.
Babka said, “If it is truly just a philanthropic motive on the part of the Belleville News-Democrat, I can assume they will waive whatever fee they would normally charge for publication if I would rule in their favor.”
Craven said, “The statute doesn’t allow that either, your honor.”
Babka said, “Just wondering.”
He signed an order last May, denying intervention.
The News-Democrat sought relief at the Fifth District, relying on rules that allow appeals of orders in receivership, liquidation, rehabilitation, estate administration, guardianship, or similar proceedings.
Presiding Justice Thomas Welch wrote, “We do not agree that a delinquent tax sale proceeding is similar to an estate or guardianship proceeding, or to a receivership, rehabilitation, or liquidation proceeding.
“Had that been the intent of the rule, we believe that language of a more general nature would have been used.
“Instead, the rule refers specifically to certain types of proceedings, none of which is similar to a delinquent tax sale proceeding.”
Justices Melissa Chapman and Stephen Spomer concurred.