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Catoosa County v. Rome News Media

Court: Georgia Court of Appeals
Case Number: 825 S.E.2d 507
Decision Date: March 05, 2019
Case Type: Mandamus
The Georgia Court of Appeals held that a county's official designated organ could not be published in a neighboring state. Catoosa County, Georgia sought to change its legal organ from CCN, a part of Rome News Media, which is a weekly newspaper that had been the official legal organ of the county since its creation in 1949. Since 1992, CCN had been located in Catoosa County in Ringgold, Georgia. CCN was a member of the Georgia Press Association and published legal notices. On November 30, 2017, Catoosa County's probate judge, sheriff, and court clerk passed a resolution to change the legal organ from CCN to the Cattanooga TImes, effective January 1, 2018. 

The Chattanooga Times was a paper based out of Tennessee with distribution in Georgia and Alabama as well. Five thousand of the sixty thousand subscribers of the Chattanooga Times resided in Catoosa County. Prior to passing the 2017 resolution, county officers grew concerned that CCN was beginning to charge rates for the newspaper, which was likely to reduce the number of people who had access to legal notices. In December 2017, CCN filed a complaint against Catoosa County for a temporary restraining order, an interlocutory and permanent injunction, a declaratory judgment, and a writ of mandamus. CCN also sought to prevent the county from changing the official legal organ, as planned. The trial court granted CCN's request for a temporary restraining order and the county appealed.

The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the Chattanooga Times was not published in Catoosa County, as required by Georgia law. Code Section 9-13-142 provided that the official organ of a county had to be "published in this state" and further provided that the newspaper "shall be published within the county". The court held that the legal organ has to be published a certain number of times with a certain number of copies per issue to be qualified to be a legal organ. The court held that it might be sensible to update the state law in light of technological advances, with many newspapers publishing online, but since that was not at issue in this case, they were bound by Supreme Court precedent and affirmed the trial court's grant of permanent injunctive and declaratory relief to CCN.