Source of legal notice publication arose in court last year

A Mesa County judge last year rejected a proposal that a delinquent debtor be notified of collection attempts by a legal notice in the Fruita Times.

In the case, a hardware store was attempting to contact the debtor, Jerry Karl, to deal with a $1,900 debt, and efforts to reach him had proved fruitless over a period of months.

In frustration, the hardware store suggested to Judge Craig P. Henderson that it be allowed to publish a public notice in the Fruita Times, noting the paper is a newspaper of general circulation in Mesa County.

“Why not The Sentinel?” Henderson wrote on the motion. “The Fruita Times may be a newspaper of general circulation, but obviously The Sentinel reaches exponentially more people. The court is concerned that this publication (in the Fruita Times) would be inadequate.”

Mesa County Public Trustee Paul Brown has transferred publication of foreclosure notices from The Sentinel to the Fruita Times and Palisade Tribune, publications owned by Village Publishing Co., which is based in Greenwood Village.

The Fruita and Palisade publications have a combined weekly press run of 2,500, less than one-tenth of the daily circulation of The Sentinel.

The first copies of the Villager publications containing the notices were distributed free on Wednesday to a variety of locations around the Grand Valley, including government buildings and libraries. The 12-page supplement contained reduced-size copies of original notices of foreclosures and related documents.

In making the change to the smaller publications, Brown said he was confident the people who needed to know about foreclosures would find the notices.

Limiting public notice, however, poses a risk, said Sheila Hyatt, professor of civil procedure at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law.

Publication of legal notice “in an obscure newspaper, if it was the only notice given to a person whose interests were going to be affected by a legal proceeding, where better notice was possible, would violate that person’s due process rights,” Hyatt said in an email.

Broadly accessible public notices serve more than due-process and industry purposes, said Tonda Rush, counsel to Public Notice Resource Center in Arlington, Va. The Public Notice Resource Center is supported by newspapers and press associations around the United States.

“Of course, the reason you have public notices is because you want the public involved in the process,” Rush said.

While debtors, bankers, Realtors and others have ways of learning about foreclosures, others, such as neighbors, also can benefit from having access to the information to gauge surrounding property values or determine if the neighborhood is becoming blighted. Foreclosure notices can even be the tools that allow people to act on charitable impulses and help out neighbors in distress, Rush said.

Renters are not part of the foreclosure-notification process and some might even be paying rent to a landlord who isn’t making mortgage payments, Rush said. That makes easy access to public foreclosure notices all the more important, she said.

Such notices “are an aid to the operation of the market and not a deterrent,” Rush said.

There also is “some evidence that by going through the notice process, you enhance the likelihood the owner is going to be able to redeem” the property, Rush said.


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