Prompted by one of our members, I’m posting this help desk where you can seek and receive clarification, elaboration and answers to questions related to what we’re doing in class. I sometimes make assumptions about what we know, and of course assumptions are often wrong. So don’t hesitate to ask for more, or to step back and go over something again. And everyone in the class is invited to chime in and crowdsource the answers.
From our last time together, I wanted us to outline the significance of Times v. Sullivan, which included
- the establishment of a higher level of fault that libel plaintiffs had to prove if they are government officials (actual malice, which is reckless disregard for the truth, as compared to negligence for just us regular folk)
- the distinction the Court made between political speech (the people’s speech, not just politics) and commercial speech (expression for the purposes of commerce), as well as the speech that is somewhere in between, like the Times ad in the case and Hillary: The Movie
- that the burden of proof after Times is on the plaintiff, not on the defendant (news media)
- and that in making these distinctions the case has proven to provide in some ways “the central meaning of the First Amendment,” as the book describes.
We’ll return briefly to the case to look more closely at Hugo Black’s absolutism, and to make sure we all feel good about where Times v. Sullivan fits into the pantheon of landmark First Amendment cases.
Taking your questions . . .