Libel and Slander

Topics: New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Defamation Pages: 2 (540 words) Published: April 10, 2013
Libel and Slander

Libel and slander are very important to each and every court case. By having this defamation, it helps you decide whether someone is guilty or not guilty. Libel means that the actuation is written down somewhere and slander means that it is spoken out loud. To have this kind of case the material needs to be offending someone and false either by word of mouth or if it published somewhere. The most important defense to a libel or slander case is someone telling the truth, which is an absolute defense to an action of defamation. I am going to discuss the 1964 case New York Times versus Sullivan shows how a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation.

In 1960 the New York Times published “Heed Their Rising Voices” a fundraising advertisement for the civil rights movement. “Heed Their Rising Voices" was a fundraising advertisement signed by civil-rights leaders that criticized, among other things, certain actions of the Montgomery, Alabama, police department. Some of the facts in the advertisement were incorrect. Although no names were mentioned, Sullivan, Montgomery's police commissioner, sued The New York Times for libel and won $500,000 in an Alabama court. The case then went to The Supreme Court and The Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling. Allowing libel lawsuits in cases like this one would tend to hold back future criticism of government officials. Even legitimate criticism would fall over speakers, leading to self-censorship. At issue was the protection given press criticism of the official conduct of public officials. In overturning the lower court's ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that First Amendment protection of free speech is not dependent on the truth, popularity, or usefulness of the expressed ideas. The decision held that debate on public issues would be inhibited if public officials could recover for honest error that produced false defamatory statements about their official conduct. The court...
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