Legal Advertising Laws

Setting legal rates, type specifications

  1. Charges for legal advertisements are governed by 15-29-80 S.C. Code Ann. (1976) which provides that the person placing the ad shall not be charged more than the local display rate shown on the rate card or published in the paper, deducting all applicable discounts for volume and frequency.
  2. Legal ads must be set in solid 6 point type. If the paper does not use 6 point type, the charge for an ad shall be based on the 6 point measure. A large type may be selected at the advertiser’s discretion and expense. (Note: some computer-generated 6 point. type may not actually be 6 pt. type in some fonts. Consider measuring actual type to avoid a problem.)
  3. Indigent litigants are entitled to a rate of one dollar per inch and 50 cents per inch for subsequent insertions, but a paper is not required to accept advertising at this rate. (See article below.)
  4. No separate charge may be made for the first affidavit of publication. If a person wants multiple affidavits, you may charge for additional affidavits.
  5. The battle for legal advertising revenue is a significant area of competition for newspapers and the question is often asked if a certain newspaper “qualifies” to run legal advertising.
    • Most statutes requiring publication of notice provide that the notice is to be published in “a newspaper of general circulation in the county.”
    • An argument can be made that a paper devoid of news content, e.g., a shopper, is not a newspaper for publication of legal notices. Also, papers without periodical mailing permits may have no independent verification of circulation.

Text of S.C. Legal Advertising law:

“§I5-29-80. State and county officials authorized by law to publish advertisements in the newspapers of this State, including advertisements of sales of real and personal property by masters, clerks of court, judges of probate and sheriffs, citations, notices to creditors, notices of final settlement by executors, administrators, guardians and all other persons acting in a fiduciary capacity, service of summons by publication, notices of election ordered by commissioners, reports of county treasurers, supervisors and superintendents of education, notices of county auditors, proclamations of the executive department, proposals for works and supplies by the heads of departments or other officials authorized to advertise for competitive bids and all other advertising whatever done by order of court or by State and county officials, shall be charged not more than the local retail display advertising rate shown on the newspaper’s rate card or the rates published in the newspaper, deducting any and all applicable discounts earned by the volume or frequency of the legal advertising. The advertisement shall be set in solid six point type, including the caption and all other parts of the advertisement. Newspapers that do not use six point type shall receive compensation based on six point measure and any lesser measure shall be charged only at actual space measurement as printed: however, agencies placing advertisements may order larger measure at their discretion.

The publication of any of the notices provided for in this section may be let by contract for not more than the price authorized by this section.

No publication will be allowed to make any extra charges for affidavit of publication.”

“§15-29-85. Notwithstanding other provisions of § 15-29-80 with regard to legal advertising rates, any person required to publish a summons or other legal notice who qualifies as an indigent shall not be charged an amount exceeding one dollar per inch for the first insertion and not exceeding fifty cents per inch for each subsequent insertion of that legal advertisement. Advertisement published under the provisions of this section shall comply with the layout requirements set forth in § 15-29-80 with charges calculated in accordance with the measurement provisions set forth therein. As used in this section “indigent” means a person whose legal assistance is paid for with public funds or who would be qualified for such assistance in the proceeding which requires publication of the legal notice concerned.”

Legal definition of a newspaper

The legal definition comes from the Department of Revenue Code (see pages 50-51).

117 -315.1 Newspapers

Section 12-36-2120(8) exempts from the measure of the tax the gross proceeds of the sale of newspapers.

In order to qualify as a newspaper the publication must meet at least the following requirements:

  1. It must be commonly and ordinarily considered and accepted as a newspaper by the public it is intended to serve.
  2. It must be published at stated short intervals – daily or weekly.
  3. It must contain news of general interest and intelligence of current events.
  4. It must be printed on newsprint paper.
  5. It must not, when its successive issues are put together, constitute a book. Even though the publication may be devoted primarily to matters of specialized interest, such as mercantile, political, religious or sporting, if in addition it qualifies under all of the foregoing it is entitled to be classed as a newspaper.
  6. Newspapers do not include magazines, periodicals, bulletins, and other publications.

Indigent legal rate explained

By Jay Bender, SCPA Attorney

The law provides that the legal rate for indigent persons shall not exceed $1.00 per inch for the first insertion and 50 cents per inch for each subsequent insertion.

An “indigent” is a person whose legal assistance is paid for with public funds. Recently several newspapers have received requests from attorneys representing persons under the Bar’s Pro Bono Program.

First, a word about the Pro Bono Program. The South Carolina Bar has recognized that a responsibility rests on the members of the profession to provide legal services to those in need but unable to acquire them.

The resources of the legal services offices are too limited to meet the needs of the poor, and hundreds of lawyers across the state have volunteered their time to represent indigent persons at no fee. This is a voluntary program independent of the practice of involuntary assignment of criminal defense representation. Some funds are made available to pay the costs of civil litigation in the Pro Bono Program from interest received on law firm trust accounts. From these funds, costs such as those for legal advertising may be paid.

Back to the rate for legal notices.

There is no obligation on any newspaper to publish any advertising unless the newspaper has contracted to publish it. If you agree to publish a legal notice, I believe that you may be bound to publish at the rate set by statute.

I say “may” because there may be an argument that the statute limits a party’s freedom of contract, in violation of the Constitution. If you choose not to publish a legal notice, the party may still go forward with the litigation by posting the notice rather than publishing it in a newspaper.

Can you publish legal advertising at the retail rate, and refuse to publish at the indigency rate? Yes. Whether you should take that position is a question of policy and not of law. You can decide whether or not to honor the pauper rate on an individual basis. A private party cannot be charged with discrimination in such a case.

– From S.C. Press Association’s Laws Affecting South Carolina Newspapers