Lorain Journal Co
Milkovich was a wrestling coach at Maple Heights High School, in
Maple Heights, Ohio.
Lorain Journal Co owns the Herald newspaper.
His team was involved in an altercation at a home wrestling
Several people were injured. In response to the incident,
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) held a hearing and
placed the Maple Heights team on probation and ineligible
for the 1975 state tournament.
OHSAA also censured Milkovich for his actions during the
Thereafter, several parents and wrestlers sued OHSAA in the Court of
Common Pleas of Franklin County, Ohio, seeking a restraining order
against OHSAA's ruling on the grounds that they
had been denied due process in
the OHSAA proceeding.
Both Milkovich and Scott testified in that proceeding.
Court - Overturned
The court overturned OHSAA's probation and ineligibility orders on due
Article Public Day
after the Decision
Maple beat the law with the big lie.
Petitioner commenced a defamation action against respondents in the
Court of Common Pleas of Lake County, Ohio, alleging that the
headline of Diadiun's article and the nine passages "accused
plaintiff of committing the crime of perjury, an indictable
offense in the State of Ohio, and
plaintiff directly in his life-time occupation of coach and
teacher, and constituted libel per se.
Ohio Supreme Court (Constitutionally Protected Opinion)
Determined that Diadiuns article was a constitutionally protected
Fact vs. Opinion Test
Under that analysis, four factors are considered to ascertain whether,
under the "totality of circumstances,"
a statement is fact or opinion. These factors are:
specific language used;
the statement is verifiable;
general context of the statement; and
broader context in which the statement appeared.
First two tests
Deeming the challenged passages actionable assertions of fact.
These elements were trumped by the third and the forth factors.
General context of the
Statement (Ohio S.Ct analysis)
The court explained that the large caption TD Says would indicate to
even the most gullible read that the article was in an opinion.
Broader context in
which the statement appeared (Ohio S.Ct Analysis)
Court reasoned that because the article appeared on a sports page --
"a traditional haven for cajoling, invective, and hyperbole" -- the
article would probably be construed as opinion.
U.S Supreme Court (Granted Certiorari)
To review the Ohios courts recognition of a constitutionally required
opinion exception to the application of it defamation law.
(Lorain Journal Co.
Protection for Defamatory Statements categorized as opinion
Under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false idea.
However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction
not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of
But there is no constitutional value
in false statements of fact.
We do not think Gertz was intended to create a wholesale defamation
exemption for anything that might be labeled an opinion.
In my opinion Jones is
He implies knowledge of facts which lead to the conclusion that Jones
told an untruth.
Even if the speaker states the facts upon which he bases his opinion,
if those facts are either incorrect or incomplete, or if his assessment
of them is erroneous, the statement may
still imply a false assertion of fact.
Simply couching such statements in terms of opinion does not dispel
Opinions can cause as much damage to reputation as the statement,
It is worthy of note that at common law, even the privilege of
fair comment did not extend to "a
false statement of fact, whether it was
expressly stated or implied from an expression of opinion."
Lorain Journal Co. Arg
Defamation requires an ppinion or fact inquiry
Contend that in every defamation case the First Amendment mandates an
inquiry into whether a statement is opinion or fact.
Only the latter statements may be actionable.
We think the "'breathing space'" which "freedoms of expression require
in order to survive, is adequately secured
by existing constitutional doctrine without the creation of
an artificial dichotomy between "opinion" and fact.
A statement on (1) matters of public concern must be (2)
provable as false before there can be liability under state
A statement of opinion relating to matters of public concern which
does NOT contain a provably
false factual connotation will receive
full constitutional protection.
This provides protection for statements that CANNOT reasonably be
interpreted as stating actual facts about an individual.
This provides assurance that public debate will not suffer for lack of
"imaginative expression" or the "rhetorical hyperbole".
New York Times
The New York Times culpability requirements further ensure that debate
on public issues remains "uninhibited,
robust, and wide-open."
Public Figure Requirements
Where a statement of "opinion" on a matter of
public concern reasonably implies
false and defamatory facts regarding public figures or officials, those
individuals must show that such statements were made with (1)
knowledge of their false implications or with (2) reckless
disregard of their truth.
Private Figure on a matter of public concern
A plaintiff must show that the false connotations were made with some
level of fault as required by Gertz.
No need for additional
[The article] is NOT the
sort of loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language which would negate the
impression that the writer was seriously maintaining that petitioner
committed the crime of perjury.
Nor does the general tenor of the article negate this impression.
We also think the connotation that petitioner committed perjury is
to be susceptible of being proved true or
Public Policy Concerns
We have to acknowledge the important social values which underlie the
law of defamation, and recognized that society has a pervasive and
strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon reputation.
Reversed and Remanded
Among the circumstances to be scrutinized by a court in ascertaining
whether a statement purports to state or imply "actual facts about an
the type of language used,
the meaning of the statement in context,
whether the statement is verifiable, and
the broader social circumstances in which the statement was made
Where Brennan parts
The challenged statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as either
stating or implying defamatory facts about the petitioner.
The majority does not rest its decision today on any finding that the
statements at issue explicitly state a false or defamatory fact.
Diaduins assumption that Milkovich must have lied is conjecture.
Diaduin was simply guessing.
He did not attend the court hearing.
Diaduin focused on the courts reversal.
Diaduin used the word apparently, meaning he did not know what
Milkovich had actually said. (This type of language puts the reader on
notice that what is being read is opinion).
The tone and format is greatly exaggerated.
One of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to
criticize men and measures.