Df - St.
(Df), a candidate for public office, made a televised political
speech, during which he read statements made by Albin, a union
member, falsely charging Thompson (Pl), a deputy sheriff, with
knew that this safe was gonna be moved that night, but
imagine our predicament, knowing of
Ed's connections with the
Sheriff's office through Herman Thompson.
We also knew
of money that had passed hands
between Ed and Herman Thompson . . . from Ed to Herman.
knew of his connections with
State Trooper Lieutenant Joe Green.
We knew we
couldn't get any help from there and
we didn't know how far that he
was involved in the Sheriff's office
publication had "impute[d] . . . gross misconduct" and "infer[red]
conduct of the most nefarious nature."
judge ruled in Thompson's favor and awarded $5,000 in damages.
Pl - Public
Df - Public
Court of Appeal reversed
record failed to show that St. Amant had acted with actual
of Louisiana reversed
sufficient evidence that St. Amant recklessly disregarded
whether the statements about Thompson were true or false.
defamation suit, a public official must prove the Df had serious
doubts as to the truth of his publication in order to
demonstrate actual malice.
Reckless Conduct Analysis
conduct is not measured
by whether a reasonably prudent man would have published,
or would have investigated before publishing.
must be sufficient evidence
to permit the conclusion that the
defendant in fact entertained serious
doubts as to the truth of his publication.
with such doubts shows reckless
disregard for truth or falsity and
demonstrates actual malice.
essential that the First Amendment protect some erroneous
publications as well as true ones.
information helps the truth get out.
determines if Statements were made in Good Faith?
of fact must determine whether the publication was indeed made
in good faith.
The Df -
cannot automatically insure a favorable verdict by testifying
that he believed the statements were true.
Non-Persuasive Professions of Good Faith Examples (Finding
anonymous telephone call.
publisher's allegations are so
inherently improbable that
only a reckless man would have
put them in circulation.
may be found where there are obvious reasons to
doubt the veracity of the
informant or the accuracy of his reports.
Court Reasoning J. White
no proper test of reckless
disregard was St. Amant's broadcast a reckless publication about
a public officer.
referred to by the Louisiana courts
indicates an awareness by St.
Amant of the probable falsity of Albin's statement
Failure to investigate does not establish bad faith.
about his probable legal liability does not evidence a doubtful
mind on his part.
courts could say was that there was no evidence in the record of
Albin's reputation for veracity.
Amant testified that he had verified other aspects of Albins
information and that he had affidavits from others.
Amant placed himself in personal danger.
state court misunderstood and misapplied the actual malice
standard which must be observed in a public official's
defamation action, the judgment is reversed and the case
remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this
had a duty to check the
reliability of the libelous statement about Thompson.
If he had
made a good-faith check,
then he should be protected.
First Amendment is not a
shelter for the character assassinator.
public officeholder does not forfeit ones membership in the