Appellate Brief 2


Facts of the Case:

In March 1960, an advertisement was published in The New York Times that challenged the government to heed to the voices of the afflicted people in the struggle for equality. The advertisement titled ‘Heed Their Rising Voices’ was found to be defending Martin Luther King Jr against the impending indictment in Alabama. The advertiser was championing for the civil rights of the activists for equality and humane treatment of the protesters.

The advertisement was thought to be defamatory to the police of Montgomery. First, the information on the advertisement claimed that Martin Luther King Jr had been arrested by the police seven times whereas the police had only arrested him four times. Also, the advertisement claimed that the police had handled King and other protesters inhumanely. Although the Montgomery Commissioner Sullivan L. B had not been personally linked to the claim, this inaccurate reports about a department he supervises made him involved.

The plaintiff, therefore, demanded that the defendant should with immediate effect retract the advertisement from its sites. However, the defendant did not find any reason for the plaintiff to think that anything in the advertisement reflected adversely on him or his position. The court in Alabama ruled for the plaintiff and awarded him $500,000 as damages for defamation. The defendant was unsatisfied and appealed the ruling.

The Issue before The Court: The court had a duty to describe how New York Times Co. was liable for defamation due to the advertisement printed to criticize a public official.

The Ruling: The court of appeal found the previous ruling deficient. The ruling had failed to safeguard the freedom of speech that the press should enjoy. In addition, the court declared that even when such safeguard is ignored, there was no enough evidence to support the earlier judgment. Since the statements in the advertisements were not malicious, their being false was not enough to rule for the plaintiff.

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