Saturday, July 5, 2014
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan Case Brief
New York Times Co. v Sullivan Case Brief
The plaintiff was a Commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama. He filed a case because he claimed that he had been defamed through an ad on the newspaper. More specifically, he claimed that a full-page advertisement that was placed in the New York Times was referring to himself. It should be noted, though, that there was no particulars in the ad that would point to him specifically. Even the publishers at the New York Times made a statement that, in effect, told Sullivan that they had no idea why he would think that it was him at all. They, in effect, told him that it was not about him. They even invited him to let them know which parts of the advertisement he presumed to be pertaining to him. It is of note as well that some of the details in the advertisement were admittedly false.
The Commissioner demanded that the advertisement be revoked, but the jury was of the opinion that the ad, although libelous intrinsically, was not to be retracted since there was no proof of the malicious intent of the creator. Because of this, the defendant Commissioner made an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The case was started at the Alabama Supreme Court and was decided upon by the United States of America Supreme Court.
The issue was whether or not a public officer can recover damages from libelous statements in relation to his official conduct.
The Constitution bars public officials from recovering damages for statements that are defamatory in character but which are made in relation to their official conduct. The exception is if it is proven that such statements were uttered with an actual knowledge that such words were false and were still deliberately said.
The press is and should be free. The concept of freedom of expression is embodied by the press. These are guaranteed by both the First as well as the Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. In this case, the Court examined the definition of a libelous publication per se. It stated that a publication is libelous if it tends to cause injury to person in various aspects as in his reputation. It is also libelous if it is intended to cause public contempt towards the person in question.
The Court established that errors in statements should not be so closely examined as to nitpick and be to scrutinous.it is but human nature to make mistakes. The freedom of speech is very important for the creation of a free society and thus must be preserved at all costs.
The Court stated that in support of the aforementioned Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, it is important that there be created federal laws which prohibits the very wrong that the petitioner wishes to accomplish. The press must be protected in this case. There should be enactments which will prevent a public official for suing and or recovering damages for having been subjected to a defamatory statement or falsehood but which are in relation to their line of duty. It was established that there could only be an award or recovery of damages if and only if there is evidence of the publisher or speaker having made such statements with deliberate malice or if there is a blatant disregard of the veracity of the statements.
The Court, in this case, upheld the freedom of the speech of the press and preserved the right of the press to criticize those who are public officials as long as there is no malice is actively involved.
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