Contemproary Libel Law_Revised_1220

Contemproary Libel Law_Revised_1220 - Contemporary Libel...

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Contemporary Libel Law History: 1. The courts have always recognized the value of someone’s reputation. 2. The courts have not always distinguished between true and false statements about someone that might harm his or her reputation. 3. In the United States, libel law, until the New York Times v. Sullivan case (1964) essentially was left in the domain of the states. 4. A common concept implanted in state libel law was that some words were harmful all the time (libel per se), regardless of the context in which they were delivered. 5. After 1964, the courts recognized “the public principle,” an element of libel law in Kansas that held the idea that public officials needed to prove more to win a libel case. This ties to the legal philosopher Meiklejohn’s theory on two tiers of speech, public affairs, full protection; everything else, case by case examination of the speech. New York Times V. Sullivan (1964) • Sociopolitical climate: 1. Growing civil unrest related to the civil rights movement. 2. National awareness of that unrest and conditions of blacks in the South because of the growing popularity and accessibility to TV news and because of national newspaper and news magazine coverage. 3. Violence and death related to the civil rights movement. • How did the case make it to the U.S. Supreme Court? 1. In the case, Montgomery, Ala., police Chief L.B. Sullivan took issue with an ad in the New York Times implicating his department’s officers in illegal treatment of students during a civil rights demonstration on and near the historically black university, Alabama State University. 2. He sued the paper for libel in Alabama state court and was awarded $500,000. He picked the jurisdiction where he thought he would have the best chance to win. He could have sued in federal court or in another state court where the New York Times published (see textbook on “jurisdiction shopping). 3. Appeals by the New York Times in Alabama courts failed, so the paper appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. • Why did the paper decide on the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court? 1. The Award was a huge amount of money in 1964. (If you converted the $500,000 award in 1964 to 2007 dollars, it would equal approximately $3,327,000.) 2. It would make it virtually impossible for the New York Times and any other news agency to cover the civil rights movement in the South or elsewhere without getting sued. 3.
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This note was uploaded on 04/18/2008 for the course JOUR 301 taught by Professor Mckerral during the Spring '08 term at Western Kentucky University.

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Contemproary Libel Law_Revised_1220 - Contemporary Libel...

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