Legal Hotline: Proof of Publication 2019

Legal Hotline: Proof of Publication 2019

PNA Legal Hotline

Q: What does Pennsylvania law require a “Proof of Publication” to include? And, are we allowed to charge administrative fees in addition to the notary fee?

A: The Newspaper Advertising Act sets forth a number of requirements for a valid “Proof of Publication” and while there is no law that sets a maximum fee for a “Proof of “Publication, the Notary Public Act does set a maximum fee for notarization which is required as part of all “Proofs of Publication.” Fees for administrative/clerical services in addition to the notary fee are generally permitted.

The Newspaper Advertising Act defines “proof of publication” as follows:

“Proof of publication.” A printed or written statement, declaring the name of a newspaper of general circulation, a legal newspaper or an official newspaper, as defined in this section, its place of business, when the same was established, the date or dates, and issue or issues, in which a printed notice or publication appeared, and to which is securely attached, exactly as printed or published, a copy of the official advertisement, official notice, legal notice, or legal advertisement, verified with a statement of the owner, publisher, or the designated agent of the owner or publisher, of such publication in which the official or legal advertisement or notice was published, duly sworn to before a person authorized to administer oaths, and also declaring that the affiant is not interested in the subject matter of the notice or advertising, and that all of the allegations of the statement as to the time, place, and character of publication are true.

Under this Act, then, a proof of publication is a printed or written statement, including:

  1. the name of the newspaper;
  2. that the newspaper is a newspaper of general circulation;
  3. its place of business;
  4. when the newspaper was established; and
  5. the date or dates, and issues in which the printed notice or publication appeared.

An exact copy of the notice or advertisement, as it ran in the newspaper, must be attached to the above-referenced statement.

The statement must also include a notarized (sworn) verification by the owner, publisher or his designated agent. The sworn verification must state that the affiant (owner/publisher/agent) is not interested in the subject matter of the notice or advertising, and that all of the allegations as to the time, place, and character of publication are true.

There are also additional, more specific Acts that refer to the required “proof of publication” in particular circumstances. These may contain additional (usually minor) requirements. For example, the Education Code provides that:

Proof of publication of any notice required to be given by the posting of handbills or statements shall be made by attaching an original copy of such handbill or statement as actually printed and posted to an affidavit made by the person posting such notice. Such affiant shall not be an interested party or an employee of any person or persons interested in the subject matter of said notice. His affidavit shall state where and when the notices were posted and where the notice was published in newspapers, as aforesaid. A printed copy, exactly as published in said newspaper, shall be securely attached to a similar affidavit of the publisher or his designated agent.

As you can see, this is not significantly different from the definition set forth in the Newspaper Advertising Act, but does have some different language regarding the affiant’s lack of interest in the subject matter.

With regard to fees, there is no law that sets forth a fee schedule for newspapers that provide proofs of publication but one component part of the fee is governed by law. As noted above, proofs of publication must be notarized in order to be valid. Notary fees are governed by the Notary Public Act of 1953, specifically 57 P.S. §167. Pursuant to this law, the fee schedule for notary services are set by the Secretary of the Commonwealth with approval by the Attorney General. Notaries are prohibited from charging any fees in excess of those set by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The law also requires notaries to conspicuously display the fee schedule in the notary’s place of business or provide the fee schedule upon request to any person utilizing the services of the notary. The law also requires the fees of the notary to be separately stated. Many newspapers have a notary public on staff that must follow the Notary Public Act and the fee schedule set by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

The current fee schedule for notary services is:

NOTARY PUBLIC FEE SCHEDULE

  • Executing Affidavits (no matter how many signatures) $5.00
  • Executing Acknowledgements $5.00
  • Executing Acknowledgements, each additional name $2.00
  • Executing Certificates (per certified copy) $5.00
  • Administering Oaths (per individual taking an oath) $5.00
  • Taking Depositions (per page) $3.00
  • Executing Verifications $5.00
  • Executing Protests (per page) $3.00

Clerical/administrative fees charged in addition to the notary fees listed above are permissible if certain requirements are met. These fees typically include costs associated with copying documents, postage, and other related administrative functions. These fees must be customary and reasonable for the geographic area and for the service rendered. Customers should be informed prior to the notarization if an additional clerical fee is being charged in addition to the notary public fees, and the receipt should itemize the additional fees. These additional fees must also be separately itemized in the notary journal.

You can learn more about notary fees from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

As with any legal form used by a newspaper, PNA encourages members to consult with an attorney prior to putting it into use.

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Please consult your newspaper’s attorney or the Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.