a false and malicious publication
We are required in this case to determine for the first time the extent to which the constitutional protections for speech and press limit a State's power to award damages in a
libel action brought by a public official against critics of his official conduct.
attribute to a cause or source
He further claimed that the paragraph would be read as
imputing to the police, and hence to him, the padlocking of the dining hall in order to starve the students into submission.
bring into intimate and incriminating connection
Although Dr. King's home had, in fact, been bombed twice when his wife and child were there, both of these occasions antedated respondent's tenure as Commissioner, and the police were not only not
implicated in the bombings, but had made every effort to apprehend those who were.
lose the right to or lose by some error, offense, or crime
To avoid placing such a handicap upon the freedoms of expression, we hold that, if the allegedly libelous statements would otherwise be constitutionally protected from the present judgment, they do not
forfeit that protection because they were published in the form of a paid advertisement.
relating to or involving money
Respondent made no effort to prove that he suffered actual
pecuniary loss as a result of the alleged libel.
with respect to its inherent nature
The trial judge submitted the case to the jury under instructions that the statements in the advertisement were "libelous
per se," and were not privileged, so that petitioners might be held liable if the jury found that they had published the advertisement and that the statements were made "of and concerning" respondent.
not subject to usual rules or penalties
The trial judge submitted the case to the jury under instructions that the statements in the advertisement were "libelous per se," and were not
privileged, so that petitioners might be held liable if the jury found that they had published the advertisement and that the statements were made "of and concerning" respondent.
lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
Under Alabama law, as applied in this case, a publication is "libelous per se" if the words "tend to injure a person...in his reputation" or to "bring him into public
contempt"; the trial court stated that the standard was met if the words are such as to "injure him in his public office, or impute misconduct to him in his office, or want of official integrity, or want of fidelity to a public trust...."
the action of lessening in severity or intensity
Good motives and belief in truth do not negate an inference of malice, but are relevant only in
mitigation of punitive damages if the jury chooses to accord them weight.
any harm resulting from a violation of a legal right
Good motives and belief in truth do not negate an inference of malice, but are relevant only in mitigation of punitive
damages if the jury chooses to accord them weight.
an obligation to pay money to another party
The question before us is whether this rule of
liability, as applied to an action brought by a public official against critics of his official conduct, abridges the freedom of speech and of the press that is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
a defamatory or abusive word or phrase
In deciding the question now, we are compelled by neither precedent nor policy to give any more weight to the
epithet "libel" than we have to other "mere labels" of state law.
the quality of being unaffected by something
Like insurrection, contempt, advocacy of unlawful acts, breach of the peace, obscenity, solicitation of legal business, and the various other formulae for the repression of expression that have been challenged in this Court, libel can claim no talismanic
immunity from constitutional limitations.
readily reacting or replying to people or events or stimuli
The maintenance of the opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be
responsive to the will of the people and that changes may be obtained by lawful means, an opportunity essential to the security of the Republic, is a fundamental principle of our constitutional system.
avoid and stay away from deliberately
Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they
eschewed silence coerced by law—the argument of force in its worst form.
control by holding down
Like insurrection, contempt, advocacy of unlawful acts, breach of the peace, obscenity, solicitation of legal business, and the various other formulae for the
repression of expression that have been challenged in this Court, libel can claim no talismanic immunity from constitutional limitations.
dominance through threat of punishment and violence
Recognizing the occasional
tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
harsh or corrosive in tone
Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement,
caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.
making to seem more important than it really is
To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to
exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement.
To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to exaggeration, to
vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement.
having knowledge and spiritual insight
But the people of this nation have ordained, in the light of history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to
enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.
make reference to
advert to the nature of Republican Government, we shall find that the censorial power is in the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people.
release from (claims, debts, or taxes)
Jefferson, as President, pardoned those who had been convicted and sentenced under the Act and
remitted their fines, stating:
an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority
I discharged every person under punishment or prosecution under the
sedition law because I considered, and now consider, that law to be a nullity, as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.
a corrupt or depraved or degenerate act or practice
Alabama, for example, has a criminal libel law which subjects to prosecution "any person who speaks, writes, or prints of and concerning another any accusation falsely and maliciously importing the commission by such person of a felony, or any other indictable offense involving moral
turpitude," and which allows as punishment upon conviction a fine not exceeding $500 and a prison sentence of six months.
a sudden numbing dread
Whether or not a newspaper can survive a succession of such judgments, the
pall of fear and timidity imposed upon those who would give voice to public criticism is an atmosphere in which the First Amendment freedoms cannot survive.
advance evidence for
Even courts accepting this defense as an adequate safeguard have recognized the difficulties of
adducing legal proofs that the alleged libel was true in all its factual particulars.
the desire to see others suffer
The constitutional guarantees require, we think, a federal rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with "actual
malice"—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
an unwanted discomfort
The importance to the state and to society of such discussions is so vast, and the advantages derived are so great, that they more than counterbalance the
inconvenience of private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great.
charge falsely or with malicious intent
In such a case the occasion gives rise to a privilege, qualified to this extent: any one claiming to be
defamed by the communication must show actual malice or go remediless.
a predisposition in favor of something
It would give public servants an unjustified
preference over the public they serve, if critics of official conduct did not have a fair equivalent of the immunity granted to the officials themselves.
refer a matter or legal case back to another authority
Because of this uncertainty, the judgment must be reversed and the case
showing a lack of concern or seriousness
The statement by the Times' Secretary that, apart from the padlocking allegation...affords no constitutional warrant for the Alabama Supreme Court's conclusion that it was a
cavalier ignoring of the falsity of the advertisement [from which] the jury could not have but been impressed with the bad faith of The Times, and its maliciousness inferable therefrom.
marked by defiant disregard for danger or consequences
Even assuming that they could constitutionally be found to have authorized the use of their names on the advertisement, there was no evidence whatever that they were aware of any erroneous statements or were in any way
reckless in that regard. The judgment against them is thus without constitutional support.
challenge the honesty or veracity of
The statement does not indicate malice at the time of the publication; even if the advertisement was not "substantially correct"—although respondent's own proofs tend to show that it was—that opinion was at least a reasonable one, and there was no evidence to
impeach the witness' good faith in holding it.
formally reject or disavow
The Times' failure to
retract upon respondent's demand, although it later
retracted upon the demand of Governor Patterson, is likewise not adequate evidence of malice for constitutional purposes.
failure to act with the prudence of a reasonable person
We think the evidence against the Times supports, at most, a finding of
negligence in failing to discover the misstatements, and is constitutionally insufficient to show the recklessness that is required for a finding of actual malice.
politely refuse or take exception to
That court, in holding that the trial court "did not err in overruling the
demurrer [of the Times] in the aspect that the libelous matter was not of and concerning the [plaintiff,]" based its ruling on the proposition...
change or alter in form, appearance, or nature
The present proposition would sidestep this obstacle by
transmuting criticism of government, however impersonal it may seem on its face, into personal criticism, and hence potential libel, of the officials of whom the government is composed.
anyone who expresses a reasoned judgment of something
Raising as it does the possibility that a good faith
critic of government will be penalized for his criticism, the proposition relied on by the Alabama courts strikes at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free expression.