• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that a trial could be held in a libel case against a newspaper, thereby increasing the complexity of libel litigation.

In 1975 a Lorain Journal sports commentator suggested that a high school coach might have lied in an investigation of a fight that took place after a sports event, and the coach sued. For fifteen years, the libel case was considered in various courts before the newspaper obtained a summary judgment from an Ohio court that the article was a constitutionally protected opinion. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court dismissed the court’s summary judgment of the fifteen-year-old suit and ordered that a trial must be held, thereby increasing the time needed to resolve the case.Libel;Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.[Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.]

Justice William H. Rehnquist,Rehnquist, William H.;Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.[Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.] in his opinion for the Court, concluded that the Ohio court had mistakenly assumed that Gertz v. Robert Welch[case]Gertz v. Robert Welch[Gertz v. Robert Welch] (1974) created a special, protected press category labeled “opinion.” The Court emphasized that even public officials (the least protected of all) could sue for libel for false defamatory statements, and trials could be held. Naturally, a newspaper had all of the other protections granted it under the current complex libel law. Justice Thurgood Marshall joined Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in dissent, agreeing that there was no special privilege for opinion, but that this article was protected because it was conjecture.

First Amendment

Garrison v. Louisiana

Gertz v. Robert Welch

Libel

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

Prior restraint

Time v. Hill

Categories: History Content