Publications FAQ 3

Does a newspaper have to meet any requirements to qualify for publication of legal notices, ordinances, etc.?

Yes. Generally speaking, publication must be in a newspaper “likely to give notice in the area or to the person affected” and one that is eligible. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.02(1).

To qualify for the publication of legal notices, a newspaper must meet certain requirements. The paper must report news and publish regularly, at least once a week. For at least two of the five year period prior to publication of a notice, the paper must have published regularly and continuously in the municipality and must have a bona fide paid circulation of at least half of its circulation and must have a designated number of subscribers. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03(1).

The circulation requirements of 985.03(1) generally disqualify “shoppers” for publication of legal notices since they usually do not have a defined number of subscribers. Accordingly, they may not be used for publication of legal notices, ordinances, etc., with the limited exception in certain circumstances, for publication of village board proceedings. See Community Newspapers v. City of West Allis, 156 Wis. 2d350, 456 N.W.2d 646 (Ct. App.1990); 71 OAG 177 (1982); 75 OAG 269 (1986).

In order to be eligible for publication of legal notices, a newspaper must also file a certificate with the county clerk stating that it qualifies under Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03, and stating its place of publication. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03(2).

It is important for municipal officials to be aware of the newspaper qualification requirements. A person charged with the duty of publishing a legal notice who causes it to be published in an ineligible paper or fails to publish a legal notice in an eligible paper is subject to a criminal penalty fine of up to $100 for each offense. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03(2).