Supreme Court Case: New York Times: Sullivan V.

Good Essays
Respondent Sullivan was an elected Commissioner of the City of Montgomery, Alabama. He was Commissioner of Public Affairs; his duties included supervision of the Police Department. He brought this civil libel action against petitioner the New York Times.

Respondent alleged that he was libeled by statements in an advertisement that was published in the New York Times on March 29, 1960.

The advertisement included statements, some of which were false, about police activity allegedly directed at students in a civil rights demonstration as well as a civil rights leader; respondent claimed the statements must have referred to him because his position included supervision of the police.

The trial, the judge instructed the jury that the above statements were "libelous per se," i.e. injury was implied without proof of actual damages, and that for the purpose of compensatory damages malice was presumed, and thus damages could be awarded if the statements were found to have been published by the petitioner and to have referred to respondent.
…show more content…
ISSUE: Was the New York Times liable for defamation?

RULING: No. Judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama was reversed and the case remanded to that court.

RATIONALE: The court found the advertisement to be an expression regarding a major public issue, and as such was subject to constitutional protection. The issue for the court was whether the ad forfeited that protection by the falsity of some of its statements.

There is no “truth test” for the First Amendment. A rule requiring that any critic of official conduct must guarantee the truth of all factual assertions, on pain of libel, would lead to

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Parol Evidence Rule

    • 1413 Words
    • 6 Pages

    425, 433 (1999). Stated differently, parol evidence cannot be used to add or alter the terms of a completely integrated contract, but it can be used to define ambiguous terms. Likewise, “[i]t is well settled that the parol evidence rule does not prevent the introduction of parol evidence indicating that the written instrument was not to become effective as an instrument, until a prior condition or event had occurred.” Foreman, supra, 257 Md. at 442. “Parol evidence is admissible, therefore, to show that a writing never became effective as a contract or that it was void or voidable.” Tricat Indus., Inc. v. Harper, 131 Md.…

    • 1413 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The Court applied the fundamental and inalienable rights test in Gitlow v. New York and Palko v. Connecticut. In Gitlow it held the freedom of speech and the press were fundamental right which was incorporated. In Palko, it defined “fundamental rights” as those that if restrained liberty and the court again applied the d justice could not exist and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. In San Antonio v. Rodriguez fundamental and inalienable rights test concluding that education was not a fundamental right. In each case, the Court incrementally moved the bar on the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.…

    • 775 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The state has no power to punish him for the content of his message showing no malicious intention or behavior of disobedience to the draft. Further, if we only look at the parties involved in this case, it was even failed to be defined as “fighting words” because the message in his speech was not directed to any person. In fact, it was just a distasteful message constituted emotive speech seeking to get public attention, which is absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Under this situation, any ordinance or law which infringes individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms renders itself unconstitutional. Therefore, the Court made the justified decision in overturning Cohen conviction, preserving…

    • 995 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Sullivan was a commissioner in the city of Montgomery. Sullivan wanted compensation for advertisements posted in the Times. The advertisement was published on March 29, 1960. The advertisement was called, “Heed Their Rising Voices,” and complained about the status of civil rights in the South. It was a long advertisement with some factual inaccuracies.…

    • 1066 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Regardless of whether a published declaration of speech is sensibly defenseless of an understanding that infers provable statements of actuality is an issue of law for the court to answer. The question whether any kind of speech has a defamatory significance or is of irrelevant conclusion (which is not noteworthy), where the court found, "the court looks to whether the sensible individual would translate the statement, taken as is, to infer a bogus testimony of truth." Isuzu Motors, Ltd. v. Purchasers Union of United States, 12 F. Supp. 2d 1035, (C.D. Cal.…

    • 1106 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The Baldus Study

    • 1440 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Here it is evident that the Supreme Court completely ignores its responsibility to protect minorities as prosecutors are granted the ability to use their preemptive strikes in racially- motived ways so long as they do not explicitly state their racism. The Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that prosecutors are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race when selecting juries (Alexander, 116). However, prosecutors have found a way to work around this ruling, which has been deemed completely legal by the Supreme Court decision in Purkett v.…

    • 1440 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The majority in the United States V. Eichman case were able to protect First Amendment rights. The justices who voted to affirm this decision believed that the State’s asserted interests could not justify the infringement on the demonstrator’s first amendment rights. The government tried to instill an Act that depicted suppression of expression. The court saw this as unorthodox. I do believe that both the dissenting and majority were trying to seek out what’s best for society in two different ways.…

    • 800 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Alternatively, Caldwell contends that review of this sufficiency claim is proper because Caldwell’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence before the trial court. We hold that this issue is not preserved and we decline to consider whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Caldwell of conspiracy to burglarize the Alkaline Water Company. The scope of appellate review is articulated in Md. Rule 8-131(a) and provides that “[o]rdinarily, the appellate court will not decide any other issue unless it plainly appears by the record to have been raised in or decided by the trial court . .…

    • 1873 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The Substantive Due Process Clause keeps the government from violating certain fundamental constitutional rights of individuals or parties. The Supreme court relied on the Substantive Due Process clause to overturn the previous courts ruling and argued that the ruling violated the S. Due Process Clause, as opposed to the Equal Protections Clause. However, Justice Sandra Day O ' Connor argued in favor of the Equal Protections Clause to overturn the state laws against sodomy. The Court recognized that the privacy rights of consenting adults cannot be violated as this violates the Constitution. You would first file a complaint with the court and deliver a copy to the defendant.…

    • 972 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    To resolve this issue, they came to the conclusion that obscenity could be constitutionally regulated because obscene material was without, “redeeming social importance”. As a result of this deduction, a requirement of having no literary, scientific, or artistic value was added to the obscenity standard. Even with this amplified/elaborated standard, the court was still unable to cap the influx in obscenity cases. In Memoirs v. Massachusetts, a book titled Fanny Hill, had been found to fit the first two characterizations of obscenity, by appealing to prurient interest and being patently offensive. However, the court could find no evidence that the book lacked social value and therefore, could only be labeled obscene if it were marketed for prurient appeal.…

    • 1234 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays