The Future of Legal Notices

As our society becomes more net savvy you'd assume it was a thing of the past for cities and counties to be bound by law to post legal notices in the paper, but they still are.

Now the question is why?

While a legal notice is meant to inform the public about local, county and government actions, with the decline of newspapers and rise of the internet, it's hard to believe there’s still a law requiring that legal notices be published in the local paper.

Bills proposing changes to legal notice requirements have come before the legislature several times.

"Even when I was a county commissioner, which was like 12 to 16 years ago, we were talking about it back then," said Sen. Drew Perkins, Wyoming Senate 29th District.

Sen. Perkins says advertisements are expensive to do for cities, towns and counties who have no choice but to pay up… but at what cost?

"This year that was right at $15,000. In the past it's been as high as $23,000," said Natrona County Treasurer, Tom Doyle.

Considering the number of people who read the newspaper everyday has diminished, some might argue it's a waste of money.... why not just put them online?

Sen. Perkins says the arguments against posting legal notices online are pretty simple.

"There still are a lot of people, particularly elderly people that are not particularly computer literate."

And while it may be hard for some to believe, not everyone has access to the internet, particularly, those at or below the federal poverty level.

"They don't have the internet, they don't have the ability to get on the internet and they don’t have computers... They might have cell phones but a lot of times the cell phones don’t have data plans."

Sen. Perkins says while the majority of people could do well with having legal notices posted online, rather than in the paper.

"If we're gonna be inclusive I don't think we're there yet. I don’t think it's time to drop that because there’s still elderly people and the poor that are gonna miss out and won’t be able to understand or won't have the opportunity to see those notices if they’re not published."

The reality is, people don't read the paper like they used to.
"I definitely think it'll be electronic in the future. We're seeing more and more that people don't read the paper and they hear it from a friend who happens to read, saw their name in the paper."

But despite the fact that less people grab a paper each day, Sen. Perkins says it gives people a different option, one that doesn't come as a bill in the mail each month.

While legal notices can be found on sites online, it is up to the local newspapers staff to upload them, something they’re not required to do.