Rule Of Law
of liability for a defamation which a publisher or broadcaster
publishes about a private individual is set by the states.
defamation plaintiff must prove falsity or reckless disregard
for the truth to recover any punitive damages other than
compensatory for actual injury.
available opportunities to contradict the lie or correct the
error and thereby to minimize its adverse impact on reputation.
Officials have great access to
channels than a private individual
individuals are therefore more
vulnerable to injury, and the state interest in
protecting them is correspondingly
individual who decides to seek governmental office must accept
certain necessary consequences of that involvement in public
attributes are more germane to fitness for office than
dishonesty, malfeasance, or improper motivation, even though
these characteristics may also affect the official's private
Public Figure by no action of his own
he obtained prominence
positions of persuasion
If they can
influence the resolution of a public controversy then they
invite attention and comment.
communications media are
entitled to act on the
assumption that public officials and public
figures have voluntarily
exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from
defamatory falsehood concerning them.
Individual Rule and Test Argument
assumption is justified with respect to a private individual.
not accepted public office
or assumed an "influential role in ordering society."
relinquished no part of his
interest in the protection of his own good name,
He has a
more compelling call on the courts for redress of injury
inflicted by defamatory falsehood.
individuals are not only more
vulnerable to injury than public officials and public
figures; they are also more deserving of recovery.
York Times Extension to Private Citizens
difficulty of forcing state and federal judges to decide on an
ad hoc basis which
publications address issues of "general or public interest".
or general interest" test for determining the applicability of
the New York Times standard to private defamation actions
inadequately serves both of the
competing values at stake.
A State can impose liability with fault
So long as
the State does not impose
liability without fault, the States may define for
themselves the appropriate standard of liability for a publisher
or broadcaster of defamatory falsehood injurious to a private
Compensatory and Punitive Recovery
interest extends no further
for actual injury.
may not permit recovery
of presumed or
punitive damages, at least when liability
is not based on a showing
of knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.
(Permitted when knowledge of falsity or recklessness is show).
allows recovery of
purportedly compensatory damages
without evidence of actual loss.
existence of injury is presumed
from the fact of publication.
Remedies Are Grounded by the First Amendment
remedies for defamatory falsehood reach no farther than are
necessary to protect the legitimate interest.
defamation plaintiffs who do not prove knowledge of falsity or
reckless disregard for the truth to compensation for actual
must be supported by competent evidence concerning the injury,
although there need be no evidence which assigns an actual
dollar value to the injury.
- Impairment of reputation and standing in the community,
personal humiliation, and mental anguish and suffering
Damages No State Justification
discretion selectively to punish unpopular opinions.
interest justifies a negligence standard for private defamation.
This is a
less demanding standard than proving NYT actual malice.
Df Arg #1
Gertz was a public official
No basis, he
was only on a hosing committee for a short period of time.
Df Arg #2
Gertzs conorers inquest appearance rendered him the "de facto
This would make all lawyers public officials.
Df Arg #3
Gertz was a public figure
He did not
game general fame or notoriety in the community.
His role was
minimal at the coroners inquest.
part in criminal trial.
discussed any litigation with the press.
thrust himself into the public issue.
Reversed Trial Court, Remanded
important public policy which underlies this tradition -- the
right to counsel -- would be gravely jeopardized if every lawyer
who takes an "unpopular" case, civil or criminal, would
automatically become fair game for irresponsible reporters and
editors who might, for example, describe the lawyer as a "mob
mouthpiece" for representing a client with a serious prior
criminal record, or as an "ambulance chaser" for representing a
claimant in a personal injury action.
The jury is
It is only
the publisher who will engage in discussion in the fact of such
stands increase the risk.
and the Fourthteen amendments prohibit damages discussion public
public or general interest do not "suddenly become less so
merely because a private individual is involved or because in
some sense the individual did not 'voluntarily' choose to become
possibility of having to engage in litigation, an expensive and
protracted process, is threat enough to cause discussion and
debate to 'steer far wider of the unlawful zone' thereby keeping
protected discussion from public cognizance