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What is the court’s reasoning? (Might include reliance on precedent, statutory interpretation and legislative history & societal considerations) If there’s a dissent, what are the main points of disagreement?The court notes that the First amendment requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant knew that the statement he/she made was false or that the defendant was reckless in deciding to publishthe information without checking to make sure it was accurate. The court unanimously reverses the decision and rules in favor of The New York Times for various reasons. The court states that sometimes freedom of speech can include attacks on the government and public officials and erroneous statements are inevitable, but nevertheless, this principle must be protected. The court also explains that the rule requiring the defendant to prove that the statement was true can deter people from voicing their criticism (diminishing the vigor of public debate), even if it is true, because of the difficulty and expense of proving its truth to a court. In addition, the court describes a rule requiring proof of “actual malice,” where a public official cannot recover damages for a falsehood relating to his/her conduct unless the official proves that the falsehood was made with the knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. The court states that in this situation, there is no evidence that The New York Times was aware of the false statements or was reckless (no finding of actual malice). Lastly, the court notesthat the evidence was not capable of supporting the jury’s opinion that the allegedly libelous statements were made about the Sullivan since there was no reference to him in the ad.
What is the precedent or holding established by the court’s ruling that will be followed in subsequent similarcases? Not just what the court does – such as reverses the decision of thecourt below or awards damages to plaintiff – but what is the proposition for which another party might cite the case?When it is a public official suing for libel the public official has to prove “actual malice.”