New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the actual malice standard that must be met for press reports about public officials to be considered libel. The decision defended free reporting of the civil rights campaigns in the southern United States. It is one of the key decisions supporting the freedom of the press. The actual malice standard requires that a plaintiff alleging defamation who is a public official or public figure prove that the publisher of the statement in question knew that the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. Because of the extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and the difficulty of proving the defendant's knowledge and intentions, such claims by public figures rarely prevail.
Before this decision, there were nearly $300 million in libel actions from the southern states outstanding against news organizations, as part of a focused effort by southern officials to use defamation lawsuits as a means of preventing critical coverage of civil rights issues in out-of-state publications. The Supreme Court's decision, and its adoption of the actual malice standard, reduced the financial exposure from potential defamation claims, and thus frustrated the efforts of public officials to use these claims to suppress political criticism.
|The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan|
|Argued January 6, 1964|
Decided March 9, 1964
|Full case name||The New York Times Company v. L. B. Sullivan|
|Citations||376 U.S. 254 (more)|
|Prior history||Judgment for plaintiff, Circuit Court, Montgomery County, Alabama; motion for new trial denied, Circuit Court, Montgomery County; affirmed, 144 So. 2d 25 (Ala. 1962); cert. granted, 371 U.S. 946 (1963).|
|A newspaper cannot be held liable for making false defamatory statements about the official conduct of a public official unless the statements were made with actual malice (knowing or reckless disregard for the truth). Supreme Court of Alabama reversed.|
|Majority||Brennan, joined by Warren, Clark, Harlan, Stewart, White|
|Concurrence||Black, joined by Douglas|
|Concurrence||Goldberg, joined by Douglas|
|U.S. Const. amends. I, XIV|
On March 29, 1960, The New York Times carried a full-page advertisement titled "Heed Their Rising Voices", paid for by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South. In the advertisement, the Committee solicited funds to defend Martin Luther King, Jr., against an Alabama perjury indictment. The advertisement described actions against civil rights protesters, some of them inaccurately, some of which involved the police force of Montgomery, Alabama. Referring to Alabama "official authority and police power", the advertisement stated: "They have arrested [King] seven times. ... ", whereas he had been arrested only four times; and that "truckloads of police ... ringed the Alabama State College campus" after the demonstration at the State Capitol, whereas the police had been "deployed near" the campus but had not actually "ringed" it and had not gone there in connection with the State Capitol demonstration. Although the Montgomery Public Safety commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, was not named in the advertisement, Sullivan argued that the inaccurate criticism of actions by the police was defamatory to him as well because it was his duty to supervise the police department.
Because Alabama law denied public officers recovery of punitive damages in a libel action on their official conduct unless they first made a written demand for a public retraction and the defendant failed or refused to comply, Sullivan sent such a request. The Times did not publish a retraction in response to the demand. Instead, its lawyers wrote a letter stating, among other things, that "we ... are somewhat puzzled as to how you think the statements in any way reflect on you," and "you might, if you desire, let us know in what respect you claim that the statements in the advertisement reflect on you."
Sullivan did not respond but instead filed a libel suit a few days later. He also sued four African-American ministers mentioned in the ad: Ralph Abernathy, S.S. Seay, Sr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and Joseph Lowery.
The Times subsequently published a retraction of the advertisement upon the demand of Governor John Patterson of Alabama, who alleged the publication charged him with "grave misconduct and ... improper actions and omissions as Governor of Alabama and ex officio chairman of the State Board of Education of Alabama." When asked to explain why there had been a retraction for the Governor but not for Sullivan, the Secretary of the Times testified:
We did that because we didn't want anything that was published by the Times to be a reflection on the State of Alabama and the Governor was, as far as we could see, the embodiment of the State of Alabama and the proper representative of the state and, furthermore, we had by that time learned more of the actual facts which the ad purported to recite and, finally, the ad did refer to the action of the state authorities and the Board of Education presumably of which the Governor is the ex officio chairman ...
However, the Secretary also testified he did not think that "any of the language in there referred to Mr. Sullivan."
Sullivan secured a judgment for $500,000 in the Alabama state trial court. The state supreme court affirmed on August 30, 1962, saying "The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not protect libelous publications". The Times appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Constitutional law scholar Herbert Wechsler successfully argued the case before the United States Supreme Court. Louis M. Loeb, a partner at the firm of Lord Day & Lord who served as chief counsel to the Times from 1948 to 1967, was among the authors of the brief of the Times.
Loeb later called the libel cases he argued for The New York Times "the heaviest responsibility I've ever had since I began practicing law."
The Supreme Court held that news publications could not be liable for libel to public officials unless the plaintiffs meets the exacting actual malice standard in the publication of the false statement. The Court's decision for The Times was unanimous, 9–0. The rule of law applied by the Alabama courts was found unconstitutional for its failure to provide safeguards for freedom of speech and of the press, as required by the First and Fourteenth Amendment. The decision further held that even with the proper safeguards, the evidence presented in the case was insufficient to support a judgment for Sullivan. In sum the court ruled that "the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity)."
The decision allowed newspapers more freedom to report on the widespread chaos and police abuse during the Civil Rights Movement.
In Sullivan, the Supreme Court adopted the term "actual malice" and gave it constitutional significance.
The Court held that a public official suing for defamation must prove that the statement in question was made with actual malice. In his concurring opinion, Justice Black explained, "'Malice,' even as defined by the Court, is an elusive, abstract concept, hard to prove and hard to disprove. The requirement that malice be proved provides at best an evanescent protection for the right critically to discuss public affairs and certainly does not measure up to the sturdy safeguard embodied in the First Amendment."
The term "malice" came from existing libel law, rather than being invented in the case. In many jurisdictions, including Alabama, proof of "actual malice" was required for punitive damages or other increased penalties. Since a writer's malicious intent is hard to prove, proof the writer knowingly published a falsehood was generally accepted as proof of malice, under the assumption that only a person with ill intent would knowingly publish something false. In Hoeppner v. Dunkirk Printing Co., 254 N.Y. 95 (1930), similarly, the court said:
The plaintiff alleges that this criticism of him and of his work was not fair and was not honest; it was published with actual malice, ill will and spite. If he establishes this allegation, he has made out a cause of action. No comment or criticism, otherwise libelous, is fair or just comment on a matter of public interest if it be made through actual ill will and malice. (p. 106)
In a oft-quoted line, Justice Brennan acknowledged that the actual malice standard may protect inaccurate speech, but that the "erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and ... it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the 'breathing space' that they need to survive." The United States, Brennan noted, is founded on the "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
The rule that somebody alleging defamation should have to prove untruth, rather than that the defendant should have to prove the truth of a statement, stood as a departure from the previous common law. In England, the development was specifically rejected in Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd and it was also rejected in Canada in Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto and more recently in Grant v. Torstar Corp. In Australia, the outcome of the case was followed in Theophanous v. The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd, but Theophanous was itself overruled by the High Court of Australia in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520.
In 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the ruling, The New York Times released an editorial in which it stated the background of the case, laid out the rationale for the Supreme Court decision, critically reflected on the state of freedom of the press 50 years after the ruling and compared the state of freedom of the press in the United States with other nations. The editorial board of The New York Times heralded the Sullivan decision as "the clearest and most forceful defense of press freedom in American history" and added:
The ruling was revolutionary, because the court for the first time rejected virtually any attempt to squelch criticism of public officials—even if false—as antithetical to "the central meaning of the First Amendment." Today, our understanding of freedom of the press comes in large part from the Sullivan case. Its core observations and principles remain unchallenged, even as the Internet has turned everyone into a worldwide publisher—capable of calling public officials instantly to account for their actions, and also of ruining reputations with the click of a mouse.
In a 2015 TIME Magazine survey of over 50 law professors, both Owen Fiss (Yale) and Steven Schiffrin (Cornell) named New York Times v. Sullivan "the best Supreme Court decision since 1960," with Fiss noting that the decision helped cement "the free-speech traditions that have ensured the vibrancy of American democracy."
In February 2019, the Supreme Court denied a petition brought by Katherine McKee, one of the women that accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, which claimed that Cosby had leaked a letter that permanently damaged her reputation, and had sought civil action against Cosby on this matter. Lower courts rejected her case on the basis of New York Times Co., stating that she "thrust herself to the forefront of a public controversy", making her a limited public figure and requiring the higher standard of malice to be demonstrated. The denial by the Supreme Court did not include a vote count, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the solitary opinion on the case, agreeing that denial was appropriate per New York Times Co., but stating that he believed that decision of New York Times Co. was made wrongly. Thomas wrote "If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we". The views of Thomas, a conservative, mirrored that of President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly called for the review of libel laws in the United States to give those defamed by others a "meaningful recourse in our courts".
A version of this editorial appeared in print on March 9, 2014, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: The Uninhibited Press, 50 Years Later.
Actual malice in United States law is a legal requirement imposed upon public officials or public figures when they file suit for libel (defamatory printed communications). Unlike other individuals who are less well-known to the general public, public officials and public figures are held to a higher standard for what they must prove before they may succeed in a defamation lawsuit.Banamex v. Narco News
Banamex v. Narco News, 2001 603429/00, was a New York Supreme Court case that extended the findings of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, that freedom of the press applied to an online newspaper's reporting.
The court found that: "Narco News, its website, and the writers who post information, are entitled to all the First Amendment protections accorded a newspaper-magazine or journalist... Furthermore, the nature of the articles printed on the website and Mr. Giordano's statements at Columbia University constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its affect [sic] on people living in this hemisphere..."Beauharnais v. Illinois
Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250 (1952), was a case that came before the United States Supreme Court in 1952. It upheld an Illinois law making it illegal to publish or exhibit any writing or picture portraying the "depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens of any race, color, creed or religion". It is most known for giving a legal basis to some degree that forms of hate speech which may be deemed to breach U.S. libel law are not protected by the First Amendment.
The defendant in Beauharnais distributed a leaflet "setting forth a petition calling on the Mayor and City Council of Chicago 'to halt the further encroachment, harassment and invasion of white people, their property, neighborhoods and persons, by the Negro.'" His criminal conviction by the trial court was sustained by the Illinois Supreme Court which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld after rejecting the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process challenge.
In his opinion Justice Frankfurter argued that the speech conducted by the defendant breached libel, which is reasoned to be outside the protection of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc.
Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 466 U.S. 485 (1984), was a product disparagement case ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court held, on a 6-3 vote, in favor of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, ruling that proof of "actual malice" was necessary in product disparagement cases raising First Amendment issues, as set out by the case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1963). The Court ruled that the First Circuit Court of Appeals had correctly concluded that Bose had not presented proof of actual malice.
The magazine Consumer Reports had published in 1970 a review of an unusual loudspeaker system manufactured by Bose Corporation, called the Bose 901. The review expressed skepticism of the system's quality and recommended that consumers delay purchase until they had investigated for themselves whether the loudspeaker system's unusual attributes would suit them. Bose objected to numerous statements in the article, including the sentences, "Worse, individual instruments heard through the Bose system seemed to grow to gigantic proportions and tended to wander about the room. For instance, a violin appeared to be 10 feet (3.0 m) wide and a piano stretched from wall to wall." Bose demanded a retraction when they learned that Consumer Reports changed what the original reviewer wrote about the speakers in his pre-publication draft, which the magazine refused to do.C. Dickerman Williams
Charles Dickerman Williams (October 1, 1900 – August 12, 1998) was an American lawyer who was known as a freedom of speech advocate. In 1951, the president appointed him chief legal officer for the U.S. Commerce Department.In 1922, Williams graduated from Yale University, and in 1924 from Yale Law School. Williams served for a year as a clerk to Chief Justice William Howard Taft of the U.S. Supreme Court.
He was an Assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan fighting bootleggers as head of a prohibition enforcement unit in 1926.In private practice with firm of Baker, Nelson & Williams he successfully argued in district court the case of Linus C. Pauling v. National Review, relying on the reasoning behind the case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan that public figures were unable to sue for libel except when there was actual malice.In 1954, Williams joined the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union.
He appeared as chairman during the first few seasons of Firing Line, the television program moderated by William F. Buckley (founder of the National Review).
Williams died in Hamden, Connecticut, on August 12, 1998. He was the father of Senior Circuit Judge Stephen F. Williams.Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts
Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of First Amendment protection against defamation claims brought by private individuals.Freedom of the press in the United States
Freedom of the press in the United States is legally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment is generally understood to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions.
Nevertheless, freedom of the press In the United States is subject to certain restrictions, such as defamation law, a lack of protection for whistleblowers, barriers to information access and constraints caused by public hostility to journalists.
International agencies rank the United States behind most other Western nations for press freedom, but ahead of most Asian, African and South American countries.Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton
Harte-Hanks Communications Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657 (1989), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States supplied an additional journalistic behavior that constitutes actual malice as first discussed in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). In the case, the Court held that departure from responsible reporting and unreasonable reporting conduct alone were not sufficient to award a public figure damages in a libel case. However, the Court also ruled that if reporters wrote with reckless disregard for the truth, which included ignoring obvious sources for their report, plaintiffs could be awarded compensatory damages on the grounds of actual malice.Heed Their Rising Voices
Heed Their Rising Voices is a 1960 newspaper advertisement published in the New York Times. It was published on March 29, 1960 and paid for by the "Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South". The purpose of the advertisement was to draw attention and support towards Martin Luther King Jr. A recent felony charge of perjury was leveled against him and could have resulted in a lengthy imprisonment. The headline of the advertisement was drawn from a phrase used in the New York Times editorial, "Amendment XV", published on March 19, 1960. The advertisement became the source of a libel suit in the United States Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964).Hill v Church of Scientology of Toronto
Hill v Church of Scientology of Toronto February 20, 1995- July 20, 1995. 2 S.C.R. 1130 was a libel case against the Church of Scientology, in which the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted Ontario's libel law in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After consideration, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that it would not follow the actual malice standard set forth in the famous United States Supreme Court case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 376
This is a list of all the United States Supreme Court cases from volume 376 of the United States Reports:
Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964)
Wright v. Rockefeller, 376 U.S. 52 (1964)
United States v. Healy, 376 U.S. 75 (1964)
United States v. Wiesenfeld Warehouse Co., 376 U.S. 86 (1964)
Southern R. Co. v. North Carolina, 376 U.S. 93 (1964)
Costello v. INS, 376 U.S. 120 (1964)
Greene v. United States, 376 U.S. 149 (1964)
Tilton v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 376 U.S. 169 (1964)
Metromedia, Inc. v. Pasadena, 376 U.S. 186 (1964)
Arlan's Department Store of Louisville, Inc. v. Kentucky, 376 U.S. 186 (1964) (per curiam)
Brooks v. Florida, 376 U.S. 187 (1964) (per curiam)
Persinger v. Washington, 376 U.S. 187 (1964) (per curiam)
Rogers v. United States, 376 U.S. 188 (1964) (per curiam)
Kotek v. Bennett, 376 U.S. 188 (1964) (per curiam)
New Orleans v. Barthe, 376 U.S. 189 (1964) (per curiam)
NAACP v. Webb's City, Inc., 376 U.S. 190 (1964) (per curiam)
Cox v. Kansas, 376 U.S. 191 (1964) (per curiam)
United States v. Merz, 376 U.S. 192 (1964)
Diamond v. Louisiana, 376 U.S. 201 (1964) (per curiam)
Neill v. Cook, 376 U.S. 202 (1964) (per curiam)
Doughty v. Maxwell, 376 U.S. 202 (1964) (per curiam)
Wolfsohn v. Hankin, 376 U.S. 203 (1964) (per curiam)
FPC v. Southern Cal. Edison Co., 376 U.S. 205 (1964)
Kreznar v. United States, 376 U.S. 221 (1964) (per curiam)
Lord v. Winchester Star, 376 U.S. 221 (1964) (per curiam)
Honeywood v. Rockefeller, 376 U.S. 222 (1964) (per curiam)
Martin v. Bush, 376 U.S. 222 (1964) (per curiam)
Seattle v. Beezer, 376 U.S. 224 (1964) (per curiam)
Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225 (1964)
Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234 (1964)
Platt v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 376 U.S. 240 (1964)
Packinghouse Workers v. Needham Packing Co., 376 U.S. 247 (1964)
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)
Yiatchos v. Yiatchos, 376 U.S. 306 (1964)
Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Co., 376 U.S. 315 (1964)
United States v. Ward Baking Co., 376 U.S. 327 (1964)
Arceneaux v. Louisiana, 376 U.S. 336 (1964) (per curiam)
Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, 376 U.S. 339 (1964) (per curiam)
Arizona v. California, 376 U.S. 340 (1964)
Smith v. Pennsylvania, 376 U.S. 354 (1964) (per curiam)
Michaels Enterprises, Inc. v. United States, 376 U.S. 356 (1964) (per curiam)
Bruning v. United States, 376 U.S. 358 (1964)
Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364 (1964)
Humble Pipe Line Co. v. Waggonner, 376 U.S. 369 (1964)
A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States, 376 U.S. 375 (1964)
United States v. J. B. Montgomery, Inc., 376 U.S. 389 (1964)
Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398 (1964)
Boire v. Greyhound Corp., 376 U.S. 473 (1964)
Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483 (1964)
Steelworkers v. NLRB, 376 U.S. 492 (1964)
Jackson v. United States, 376 U.S. 503 (1964)
Kirk v. Boehm, 376 U.S. 512 (1964) (per curiam)
Cepero v. President of United States, 376 U.S. 512 (1964) (per curiam)
Fawcett Publications, Inc. v. Morris, 376 U.S. 513 (1964) (per curiam)
Auclair Transp., Inc. v. United States, 376 U.S. 514 (1964) (per curiam)
FPC v. Hunt, 376 U.S. 515 (1964)
Rugendorf v. United States, 376 U.S. 528 (1964)
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543 (1964)
Mrvica v. Esperdy, 376 U.S. 560 (1964)
Ungar v. Sarafite, 376 U.S. 575 (1964)
Rabinowitz v. Kennedy, 376 U.S. 605 (1964)
Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612 (1964)
In re Crow, 376 U.S. 647 (1964) (per curiam)
Port of Brookings v. United States, 376 U.S. 647 (1964) (per curiam)
Suburban Telephone Co. v. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co., 376 U.S. 648 (1964) (per curiam)
Carter v. Florida, 376 U.S. 648 (1964) (per curiam)
Sells v. Welsh, 376 U.S. 649 (1964) (per curiam)
O'Bryan v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Assn., 376 U.S. 649 (1964) (per curiam)
Hamilton v. Alabama, 376 U.S. 650 (1964) (per curiam)
United States v. El Paso Natural Gas Co., 376 U.S. 651 (1964)
United States v. First Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Lexington, 376 U.S. 665 (1964)
United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681 (1964)
Arnold v. North Carolina, 376 U.S. 773 (1964) (per curiam)
Publishers' Assn. of New York City v. Mailers, 376 U.S. 775 (1964) (per curiam)
Henry v. Rock Hill, 376 U.S. 776 (1964) (per curiam)
Pan-American Life Ins. Co. v. Rodriguez, 376 U.S. 779 (1964) (per curiam)
J. B. Acton, Inc. v. United States, 376 U.S. 779 (1964) (per curiam)
Standard Cigar Co. v. Tabacalera Severiano Jorge, S. A., 376 U.S. 780 (1964) (per curiam)
Aetna Ins. Co. v. Menendez, 376 U.S. 781 (1964) (per curiam)
Telephone News System, Inc. v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co., 376 U.S. 782 (1964) (per curiam)
Yribarne v. County of San Bernardino, 376 U.S. 783 (1964) (per curiam)
United Fuel Gas Co. v. Public Serv. Comm'n of W. Va., 376 U.S. 784 (1964) (per curiam)Malice (law)
Malice is a legal term referring to a party's intention to do injury to another party. Malice is either expressed or implied. Malice is expressed when there is manifested a deliberate intention to unlawfully take away the life of a human being. Malice is implied when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart. Malice, in a legal sense, may be inferred from the evidence and imputed to the defendant, depending on the nature of the case.
In many kinds of cases, malice must be found to exist in order to convict (for example malice is an element of the crime of arson in many jurisdictions). In civil law cases, a finding of malice allows for the award of greater damages, or for punitive damages. The legal concept of malice is most common in Anglo-American law, and in legal systems derived from the English common law system.
In English civil law (being the law of England and Wales), relevant case law in negligence and misfeasance in a public office includes Dunlop v. Woollahra Municipal Council  A.C. 158; Bourgoin S.A. v. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food  Q.B. 716; Jones v Swansea City Council  1 WLR 1453; Three Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England,  and Elguzouli-Daf v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  2 QB 335, in which Steyn LJ. found that malice could be made out if the acts were done with an actual intention to cause injury. Malice could be shown if the acts were done in the knowledge of invalidity or lack of power and with knowledge that it would cause or be likely to cause injury. Malice would also exist if the acts were done with reckless indifference or deliberate blindness to that invalidity or lack of power and that likely injury. These elements, with respect, are consistent with the views of the majority albeit that some of those views were expressed tentatively having regard to the basis upon which the case before them was presented.
In English criminal law on mens rea (Latin for "guilty mind"), R v. Cunningham (1957) 2 AER 412 was the pivotal case in establishing both that the test for "maliciously" was subjective rather than objective, and that malice was inevitably linked to recklessness. In that case, a man released gas from the mains into adjoining houses while attempting to steal money from the pay-meter:
In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken ... as requiring either:
an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or
recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk of it).
Lord Diplock confirmed the relationship to recklessness in R v Mowatt (1968) 1 QB 421:
In the offence under section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, the word "maliciously" does import upon the part of the person who unlawfully inflicts the wound or other grievous bodily harm an awareness that his act may have the consequence of causing some physical harm to some other person ... It is quite unnecessary that the accused should have foreseen that his unlawful act might cause physical harm of the gravity described in the section, i.e. a wound or serious physical injury. It is enough that he should have foreseen that some physical harm to some person, albeit of a minor character, might result.
In the United States, the malice standard was set in the Supreme Court case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, allowing free reporting of the civil rights campaign. The malice standard decides whether press reports about a public figure can be considered defamation or libel.McDonald v. Smith
McDonald v. Smith, 472 U.S. 479 (1985), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the right to petition does not provide absolute immunity to petitioners; it is subject to the same restrictions as other First Amendment rights.Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.
Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990), was a United States Supreme Court case that rejected the argument that a separate opinion privilege existed against libel. It was seen by legal commentators as the end of an era that began with New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and continued with Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., in which the court clarified and greatly expanded the range and scope of what could be said in the press without fear of litigation.The case took a long time to come before the court, which twice declined to hear it. When it finally did, the justices suggested they would clarify once and for all the extent to which opinions could be expressed without fear of being held libellous. The actual decision, however, was regarded as having confused the issue somewhat instead. Several state courts have responded by recognizing an opinion privilege in some way as part of their state constitution.Rosenblatt v. Baer
Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75 (1966), was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Baer, a supervisor of a county recreation area, brought a civil libel claim in New Hampshire state court against the petitioner Rosenblatt. The recreation area had been used primarily as a ski resort. The column in question had criticized the fiscal management of the area by Baer, stating "What happened to all the money last year? and every other year?" Between the trial and an appeal brought by petitioner, the Court had decided New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, in which they held that a State cannot award damages to a public official for a defamatory falsehood relating to official conduct unless the official can show actual malice. The New Hampshire Supreme Court had affirmed the award in the original case.Time, Inc. v. Firestone
Time, Inc. v. Firestone, 424 U.S. 448 (1976), was a U.S. Supreme Court case concerning defamation suits against public figures.Westmoreland v. CBS
Westmoreland v. CBS was a $120 million libel suit brought in 1982 by former U.S. Army Chief of Staff General William Westmoreland against CBS, Inc. for broadcasting on its program CBS Reports a documentary entitled The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception. Westmoreland also sued the documentary's narrator, investigative reporter Mike Wallace; the producer, investigative journalist and best-selling author George Crile, and the former CIA analyst, Sam Adams, who originally broke the story on which the broadcast was based.
Westmoreland's claims were governed by the landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision, which held that, in order to recover for defamation, a "public figure" like Westmoreland must prove that the defendant made the statements in question with "actual malice" (essentially, with knowledge, or reckless disregard, of falsity).The suit was originally filed in state court in South Carolina, but was transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The trial ended in February 1985 when the case was settled out of court just before it would have gone to the jury.William J. Brennan Award
William J. Brennan, Jr., who authored the opinion in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, has several awards named in his honor, which are presented to individuals for dedication to public interest and free expression. Awards named after William J. Brennan, Jr. are presented by the following organizations.William J. Brennan Jr.
William Joseph Brennan Jr. (April 25, 1906 – July 24, 1997) was an American judge who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990. As the seventh longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, he was known for being a leader of the Court's liberal wing.Born in Newark, New Jersey, Brennan graduated from Harvard Law School in 1931. He entered private practice in New Jersey and served in the United States Army during World War II. He was appointed in 1951 to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Shortly before the 1956 presidential election, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used a recess appointment to place Brennan on the Supreme Court. Brennan won Senate confirmation the following year. He remained on the Court until his retirement in 1990, and was succeeded by David Souter.
On the Supreme Court, Brennan was known for his outspoken progressive views, including opposition to the death penalty and support for abortion rights. He authored several landmark case opinions, including Baker v. Carr, establishing that the apportionment of legislative districts is a justiciable issue, and New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which required "actual malice" in libel suits brought by public officials. Due to his ability to shape a variety of wide opinions and "bargain" for votes in many cases, he was considered to be among the Court's most influential members. Justice Antonin Scalia called Brennan "probably the most influential Justice of the [20th] century."
United States First Amendment case law