NY Times v. Sullivan
Supreme Court of the United States
376 U.S. 254(1964)
The plaintiff Sullivan, Commissioner of Public Affairs in Alabama believed he was defamed by an article printed out in the New York Times pertaining to the tragedy that was aimed toward those who took part in the civil rights movement at a college in Alabama. The article stated how African Americans were punished by the police for things they had the right to, like peacefully protesting for the right to vote. Although the article didn’t directly mention Sullivan’s name, he felt it was referred to him because he was responsible for the police. Sullivan requested the article be moved based on the false information that was given. The defendant refused because they didn’t see how the article reflected on Sullivan. Sullivan filed a claim of libel and was awarded for the damages done, the defendant appealed. Issue:
Can an individual receive damages because of defamation if malice is not proven? Decision:
The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in favor of the plaintiff. No, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the defendant because of the first and fourteenth amendment which protects the right to speak freely. Unless malice is proven the plaintiff cannot file for defamatory damages. Opinion:
I think the Supreme Court of the United States justified their ruling because malice was not proven. If The Supreme Court of the United States would have ruled in favor of the plaintiff they would be going against freedom of speech. The article did not directly reflect on Sullivan which also played a big factor in how the case was decided.