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Times Vs Sullivan
 

Times Vs Sullivan

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    Times Vs Sullivan Times Vs Sullivan Presentation Transcript

    • Jour 3500 Dr. Yang Frank Hanlon
    • Defamation:  A false and defamatory statement concerning another;  The unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);  If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and  Damage to the plaintiff.
    • Expertlaw.com
    • Defamation: Two Types Libel- Written defamation; “Libel” is the term applied to cases of publication, such as print, broadcast and other media. Slander- Oral defamation; Spoken “falsities” In both types the info must always be false. If there is any truth to the claim, then the defamation defense will not stick.
    • Libel: It states in our textbook, that during a libel case, the person who claims libel against them must prove several things: 1. Publication- the info must have been communicated to at least one person 2. Identification- he/she must prove they were identified in the case 3. Damaged Reputation- in one way or another 4. Fault- the party did or did not do something they should have
    • Public Persons: In the case of a public person they must prove “actual malice” quot;actual malicequot; is defined as proof that the statement was made with quot;knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.quot;
    • Libel Case vs Sullivan
    • This case involves:  Libel- written defamation  Freedom of the press  Actual malice- statements that were published with the knowledge that they were untrue and also with wreckless disregard for the truth
    • The Facts:  In 1960 a group of civil rights activists took out a full page ad called, “Heed Their Rising Voices,” in the New York Times to garner support for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Facts: The ad cost $4800 and served 3 purposes 1. The defense of Dr. King for defense against perjury indictment 2. Support for students fighting for civil rights in the South 3. “The struggle for the right to vote”
    • Facts: The ad included a paragraph describing specific events such as the: Montgomery, AL incident in which the students sang “My Country Tis’ of Thee” on the Capitol steps and were approached by truckloads of police with tear gas and shotguns.
    • Facts: The ad also included charges against the Montgomery police of terrorist acts and said they were intimidating all the leaders who were rising in the South. Sullivan, the commissioner over the Montgomery Police Department, and four other commissioners filed $500,oo0 libel suits against the Times.
    • April 8, 1960 Alabama Attorney General MacDonald Gallion was quoted as saying, “We are sick and tired of of slanted and warped attacks on the state of Alabama.” He added the ad contained, “viscious, unfounded and malicious lies.”
    • The Defense: Times attorney, Eric Embry, tried to have the chareges dismissed on the defenses of: Identification- He claimed Sullivan was not specifically identified in the ad, so there was no libel. Damaged Reputation- Sullivan admitted that he lost no compensation, was not threatened with removal of office, and he was neither shunned nor ostracized.
    • November 1, 1960 The case goes to trial in the Alabama courts. The judge Walter Jones, in instructions to the jury, ruled that the ad was libelous, and therefore was presumed to be false and published with malice. The jury should not read the ad critically, but, “as the average, reasonable and normal person of ordinary intelligence in the community would read it.”
    • November 3, 1960 The jury returned a verdict for Sullivan in the amount of $500, 000: exactly what he had asked for Sullivan had won this round
    • From trial court to Supreme Court The Alabama Supreme Court was called on from the appeal of the New York Times and their attorneys claiming First Ammendment rights of freedom of the press They affirmed the verdict stating, “The First Ammendment of the Constitution does not protect libelous publications…the ammendment is directed against State action, not private action.”
    • Alabama Supreme Court “Justice demands that Alabama be permitted to protect its citizens from tortious libels” “Words that tend to injure a person in his reputation, profession, trade or business…or that bring him into public contempt are libelous, per se.”
    • The U.S. Supreme Court The decision was overturned on the basis of: 1. Lack of actual malice 2. That Sullivan himself was not libeled in the ad 3. The editors of the Times had no reason to believe the ad was untrue
    • U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan: “It is a prized American privilege to speak one’s mind , although not always with perfect, good taste, on all public institutions” “Would-be critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their criticism, even though it is believed to be true.”
    • Citations Godwin, Mike (1994). Libel, Public Figures and The Net. Retrieved April 26, 2009 from http://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/Mike_Godwin/net_public_figures_godwin .article Hopkins, W. Wat (1989). Actual Malice, Twenty-five year after Times vs Sullivan, 2, 11-24. Larson, Aaron (2008). Defamation, Libel, and Slander Law. Retrieved April 27, 2009 from http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/defamation.html Lewis, Anthony (1991). Make No Law, The Sullivan Case and the First Ammendment, 1, 6-14. Stovall, James Glen (2004). Web Journalism, Practice and Promise of a New Medium, 12 204-206.
    • Q and A: I briefed the following students on my case and the basics of libel and defamation, then asked them 8 questions. Here are their answers. Lauren Scheinberg- PR Joel Garner- Finance Matthew Shelley- Business Management
    • What is your definition of defamation? LS- When you take someone’s reputation and ruin it, like in the paper or just saying something false about them. JG- Someone saying unproven, slanderous things about someone. MS- When you spread slanderous or false information about someone.
    • Do you think private people should be held to the same standards as public people in terms of defamation? LS- No, if you’re not making a living off of other people, like celebrities and movie stars then you shouldn’t be held in the same light. JG- No, why should they. I think the rules are just fine. MS- If one person is public, then all should be public, but I’m kind of riding the fence.
    • Do you think it’s fair that public persons have to show “actual malice” in order to win a libel suit? LS- Not really, just because there wasn’t actual malice doesn’t mean the person wasn’t defamed. They still could have their reputation damaged and they could suffer for that. JG- Yes, I mean they put themselves out there and have to cover their tracks. MS- Yes, I believe they should have to prove it, especially if they are trying to get money.
    • Do you believe people in the public eye should be open to criticism even if it’s not true? LS- Yes, like I said, they make a living in the public eye and have to deal with the consequences. JG- Yes if they put themselves out there then they have to be prepared to suffer the consequences. MS- If they’re playing off the public, then they need to be put under criticism and expect it.
    • In my case, The NY Times vs Sullivan the Alabama courts ruled in favor of Sullivan, but it was overturned by the US Supreme Court, do you agree? Why/why not? LS- No, newspapers are supposed to support fact, otherwise its nothing but a tabloid. They could ruin someone and not have to pay any consequences. JG- No, I think if you’re going to defame a whole police department with false evidence then then you should have to pay. MS- They shouldn’t have to pay because no one was named specifically, but the Times shouldn’t have runn the ad.
    • Should the newspaper have been held liable although they had no reason to believe the info they received was false? Why/why not? LS- Yes, they need to check the facts because when I read the newspaper I usually believe everything as fact unless it’s the editorial or opinion section. JG- Yes, they need to check their sources better and make sure all the facts in the ad were correct. MS- Yes the newspaper has a responsibility of making sure the things they run are truthful.
    • You being a private person, would you seek damages if you felt you had been libeled against? LS- Yes, because they have no business writing about me unless I did something to deserve it. If they cause me to have major changes in my life they need to pay. JG- Yeah, if anyone publishes anything false about me, then I’m suing. MS- If it ended up hurting the business I was in then I would, but if it was harmless then I wouldn’t want to draw a lot of attention to it.
    • With bloggers and internet web sites do you think defamation claims will slow, remain the same, or grow? LS- I think they will grow, but also the people will have a hard time winning the cases, because I never really believe anything I read on the internet unless its from a respectable news site. JG- Of course, people can now say whatever they want about people so you have to expect that there will be more and more cases. MS- Yes, anyone with a computer can put out false information and that only makes it more likely to happen in the future.