The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not protect newspapers from civil suits for breaking a promise of confidentiality.
Dan Cohen, a political consultant, was fired from his job after two newspapers identified him as the source of information about a political candidate. Having been promised confidentiality, he sued for breach of contract. Based on the state’s contract law, the jury awarded him $200,000 in compensatory damages. The Minnesota supreme court, however, overturned the award, concluding that protection for the First Amendment’s freedom of the press outweighed the state’s interest in enforcing contractual obligations.
By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court directed Minnesota’s high court to reconsider the judgment according to the relevant state laws. Speaking for the majority, Justice Byron R. White
Branzburg v. Hayes
First Amendment balancing
Speech and press, freedom of