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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 169451 Find in a Library
Title: Public Relief
Journal: ABA Journal  Volume:83  Dated:(December 1997)  Pages:68-71
Author(s): M Higgins
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 4
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Screen Actors Guild is backing a California bill that would expose reporters and editors to huge personal liability for libels that come from paid sources; should this bill become law, however, it will face constitutional challenges.
Abstract: It is currently difficult to win libel suits against the media due to the media-friendly standards set by decades of case law in the wake of New York Times v. Sullivan. In this case, the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court laid out the standard for libel of public officials, which later was extended to public figures. In the course of the development of related case law, the tabloid press may have become the beneficiary of the very type of public expectations it created. The truth of a report is irrelevant if what is said is deemed by the court not to have shocked the public such that it hurts a celebrity's income. The public's increasing tolerance for a wide range of alleged behaviors or statements makes such a standard increasingly difficult to meet by those who bring libel suits against the media. Should the California bill become law, the Screen Actors Guild hopes to convince courts to reconsider case law that makes most celebrities all-purpose public figures. There is not the same urgency, the Guild contends, to expose the private lives of movie stars as there is to report on elected officials. Such arguments would take aim at the heart of the "Sullivan" decision, which held that libel of a public official must be proven by showing actual malice on the part of the media.
Main Term(s): US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): California; Freedom of speech; Freedom of the press; Legislation; Libel
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