Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts
Evidence: The evidence in this case is the Saturday Evening Post article that caused the suit in the first place. The article was an accusation that the coach of the University of Georgia football team fixed a game. This is a case of libel because it was written and seems to derogate the coach, but it was still questioned since the coach was not a public official.
Issue: Again, the issue is whether or not the Post article could be seen as libel because Butts was not a public official.
Precedent: The precedent in this case was NYT v. Sullivan, so some ground was already set on the definition of libel and public official. Butts was only a public figure, so the accusation of libel could not be accurately applied, only defamation. The evidence in this case set its own precedent, centered around the definition of what could be considered libel against someone who was a private individual, even though NYT had already set up the foundation.
Conclusion: The first conclusion in this case was that the first amendment protected publications from libel when printing things against public officials, but there was a higher degree of accountability when doing the same against public or private individuals.
Action: The action was a settlement reached that awarded money to Butts for damages.
Did the outcome fit?: The outcome did fit because a public official is much different than a private individual. Public officials are elected and have accepted the media attention they may have gotten. They have a direct relationship with the media, whereas a public figure my not have had the same autonomy to choose this relationship. Public officials, in a sense, give the media their content, and the media should not be held responsible for any defamatory content that arises about them.
Gertz v. Welch
Evidence: A piece in American Opinion was published that accused the lawyer representing the Nelson family of having a Communist agenda. The article purported that the lawyer, Gertz, was framing Nuccio, the cop who killed the Nelson boy, as a part of a leftist conspiracy. There is extrinsic evidence in this case because it was during the Cold War era, and a few years after the Red Scare. If this wasn’t a relevant factor anymore, there is a good chance this case never would have occurred.
Precedent: Again, the precedent is the NYT v. Sullivan case because it set up the basis of libel. The Curtis v. Butts case could serve as a supplemental precedent because it outlined the difference between a public official an a public figure. This case is a little bit different because Gertz was a private individual, so the two aforementioned cases could not be directly applied.
Conclusion: This case considered the article libel since Gertz was only a private individual and did not have the same breadth of “fame” or responsibility as a public official, like in the Sullivan case. The term “actual malice” was, again, brought up because there was no direct evidence that Gertz had suffered because of the article.
Action: Gertz was awarded for punitive damages against him
Did the outcome fit?: The outcome did fit because a public publication attacking a private individual is stepping outside the purview of the NYT v. Sullivan case. If a publication was allowed to publish defamatory content against anyone in the country, that would give them too much power and influence where they do not deserve it.
Hustler v. Falwell
Evidence: An ad for a liquor was placed in Hustler magazine, which detailed a tongue-in-cheek interview with a preacher, Jerry Falwell. He was a public figure, so he sued the magazine, citing defamation against him as the reason. Furthermore, he claimed there was an invasion of privacy and “intentional infliction of emotional distress”. Larry Flynt, who worked for Hustler, claimed that the ad was legal because of the NYT case.
Precedent: NYT v. Sullivan set a precedent by outlining how far a publication could go in publishing defamatory content towards a person. Since Falwell wasn’t a public figure, the case could not be applied to him. The evidence fits the precedence because Falwell can accurately claim defamation since he was not an elected public official and Hustler was not protected by the NYT v. Sullivan ruling. The Curtis v. Butts case is more applicable here since Falwell was considered a public figure.
Conclusion: The Fourth Circuit court sided with Hustler on the claims of defamation and invasion of privacy because a reader is very likely to not think the advertisement was true, and since Falwell was a public figure, he could not claim that the ad invaded his privacy. The court did side with Falwell on the claim of “emotional distress” however. The “actual malice” clause was brought up when deciding whether or not the ad was obscene enough to be negated by the First Amendment.
Action: The court reversed the Fourth Circuit ruling because the claims made in the ad were not implied as true, so it did not meet the actual malice standard.
Did the outcome fit?: The outcome of the Supreme Court did fit because the ad did not show any malice towards Falwell. The ad was outrageous, yes, but it was also such a satirical parody that it was not misleading to the audience.