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New York Times v. Sullivan

It was not until 1964 that the U.S. Supreme Court constitutionalized American libel law. Through its landmark First Amendment case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court revolutionized the then plaintiff-oriented requirement of state common law that in suing for defamation, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant published a statement relating to the plaintiff that tended to injure the plaintiff’s reputation. The Sullivan Court replaced the common law libel rule with a defendant-friendly First Amendment rule that when it comes to a libel action by a public official over criticism of official conduct, the official must prove actual malice, defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. The so-called constitutional malice has nothing to do with the ...

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