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In re Sterling Cleaners & Dyers Inc.

February 12, 1936


Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; Philip L. Sullivan, Judge.

Author: Briggle

Before SPARKS, and ALSCHULER, Circuit Judges, and BRIGGLE, District Judge.

BRIGGLE, District Judge.

The single question presented by this appeal is whether the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin is a "newspaper" within the meaning of section 28 of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898 (11 U.S.C.A. ยง 51).

The question is appropriately raised by a creditor of Sterling Cleaners & Dyers, a bankrupt corporation, by his objection to the validity of the first meeting of creditors of the bankrupt, notice of which was published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. The District Court held the publication proper and the meeting valid.

Section 28 of the Bankruptcy Act, supra, provides as follows: "Designation of newspapers. Courts of bankruptcy shall by order designate a newspaper published within their respective territorial districts, and in the county in which the bankrupt resides or the major part of his property is situated, in which notices required to be published by this title and orders which the court may direct to be published shall be inserted. Any court may in a particular case, for the convenience of parties in interest, designate some additional newspaper in which notices and orders in such case shall be published."

In pursuance of this statute, the judges of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on October 1, 1934, entered an order designating the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (and other publications not here involved ) as newspapers in which notices and orders, required by statute or order of the court to be published, might be inserted.

The facts in evidence before us, which appear not to be in dispute, disclose that the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin is a publication that has been published and circulated in sheet form every weekday since 1854; that it is now, and during its entire existence has been, devoted principally to the publication of news and notices of the proceedings in the various courts sitting in Chicago; that it has published many notices of different character directed to be published by the state and federal courts of Chicago, and has, since October 1, 1934, published more than 1,000 notices in bankruptcy matters; that it consistently publishes announcements of proceedings before various courts and the calls of the various judges thereof; that it habitually publishes some items of general news interest, but in comparison with its entire space they occupy a small portion; that it circulates among subscribers in Chicago, Chicago Heights, Berwyn, Evanston, Oak Park, Elgin, and Springfield in the state of Illinois, Atlanta, Ga., New York City, Washington, D.C.; that it has some 2,500 subscribers in various classifications, but confined chiefly to lawyers, public officials, commercial and financial institutions in and about the city of Chicago; that in its present form it carries from 8 to 16 pages of 7 columns each; that in addition it carries display advertising matter of a varying character, want ads, notices of real estate transfers, and weather reports.

Appellant and appellees join in the suggestion that the term "newspaper" as used in the statute in question is used in the ordinary sense in which that term is used in matters relating to the publication of legal notices.

The Century Dictionary defines a "newspaper" as: "A paper containing news; a sheet containing intelligence or reports of passing events, issued at short but regular intervals, and either sold or distributed gratis; a public print, or daily or weekly or semi-weekly periodical, that presents the news of the day, such as the doings of political, legislative, or other public bodies, local, provincial, or national current events, items of public interest on science, religion, commerce, as well as trade, market, and money reports, advertisements, and announcements, etc. Newspapers may be classed as general, devoted to the dissemination of intelligence on a great variety of topics which are of interest to the general reader, or special, in which some particular subject, as religion, temperance, literature, law, etc., has prominence, general news occupying a secondary place."

Various definitions have been given by the courts of the term "newspaper" in connection with the construction of statutes requiring publication of various kinds of legal notices, but when the term has been used without qualifying language it is pretty generally agreed that it means a medium for the dissemination of news of passing events printed and distributed at short but regular intervals.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota, in the case of Hull v. King, 38 Minn. 349, 37 N.W. 792, 793, said: "If a publication contains the general and current news of the day, it is none the less a newspaper because it is chiefly devoted to the dissemination of intelligence of a particular kind, or to the advocacy of particular principles or views. Most newspapers are devoted largely to special interests, political, religious, financial, moral, social, and the like, and each is naturally patronized mainly by those who are in accord with the views which it advocates, or who are most interested in the kind of intelligence to which it gives special prominence. But, if it gives the general current news of the day, it still comes within the definition of a newspaper."

In the case of Hall v. City of Milwaukee, 115 Wis. 479, 483, 91 N.W. 998, 999, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, in discussing the Daily Reporter, a publication very similar to the one under consideration, said: "The Reporter addresses itself to special fields of circulation and of news, and is, of course, widely different, both in contents and circulation, from the great daily newspapers, as they are known to the general public. It is, in brief, what its name indicates, a law and business reporter, reaching but a few hundred out of the hundreds of thousands of population of Milwaukee, and yet it cannot be said to fail of compliance with most of the recognized legal definitions of a 'newspaper.'"

The Supreme Court of Indiana, in dealing with a publication in all respects very similar to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, in the case of Lynn v. Allen, 145 Ind. 584, 44 N.E. 646, 647, 33 L.R.A. 779, 57 Am. St. Rep. 223, said: "As a matter of fact, every newspaper is in greater or less degree devoted to some special interest. No one, however, would claim that because a newspaper should, for example, be the organ of a certain political party, and especially devoted to the interests of such party, it would not, therefore, be a newspaper of general circulation. Yet such a newspaper is, to a large extent, read only by the members of the political party whose doctrines are advocated and expounded in its columns. There is no doubt that where a publication is devoted purely to a special purpose it would be an unfit medium to reach the general public. A medical, literary, religious, scientific, or legal journal is professedly but for one class, and that class but a comparatively small part of the whole population; and it would be manifestly unjust, as well as against the letter and spirit of the statute, to use such a journal for the publication of a notice affecting the property or personal rights of citizens in general. The newspaper before us, however, is no such professional or class journal. While it is a law publication in a certain sense, and of particular interest to the legal profession, yet its character, as shown by the evidence, makes it of general interest to the community at large, especially to that part of the community likely to be concerned with matters in courts and other public business. Indeed, it would seem that this newspaper is quite as likely as any party or other paper of general circulation to reach the particular persons interested in the proceeding before the court; and, consequently, that the spirit of the statute is ...

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