Legal Case: Hustler vs. Falwell

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell Pages: 2 (516 words) Published: March 30, 2002
Hustler v. Falwell
Hustler Magazine versus Jerry Falwell was a case that involved many key elements. First of all it was a case that examined if a public figure such as Jerry Falwell could collect for emotional damages sustained to him by a parody that was published in an issue of Hustler Magazine. Secondly, did Hustler invade Falwell's privacy by publishing the contents of the parody? The most important aspect of the case, that was under review, was if Hustler was in accordance with their First Amendment Rights, of freedom of speech, by publishing the parody.

The parody in question was published in an issue of Hustler in a faux advertisement for Campari Liqueur. In the advertisement entitled, "Jerry Falwell tells about his first time," Falwell is portrayed as giving an interview. In the fake interview Falwell talks about his first sexual experience, which was with his mother, and describes how he was drunk and the experience took place in an outhouse. The interview also tells how Falwell doesn't go out in front of the pulpit unless he's "sloshed."

The district Court found Hustler Magazine liable for Falwell's emotional distress and granted him 100,000 dollars in damages. However, the court did rule in favor of Hustler in that they did not invade Falwell's privacy since he was a public figure. They also ruled against Falwell's libel claim, stating that Hustler did not publish anything that a reasonable person would misinterpret as the facts.

The big argument in the case, when it was introduced to the Supreme Court, was if the District Court had deprived Hustler Magazine of their First Amendment rights. Since Hustler was a magazine of nationwide circulation and since Falwell is a national figure Hustler argued that the parody was in no way wrong since any reasonable person would identify it as humor rather than facts. The Court agreed and it found that Falwell should not be rewarded any damages.

The Chief Justice Rehnquist presided over the...
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