Friday, December 09, 2005


Scalia Slams Defamation Standards

You don't hear a lot of criticism directed at New York Times v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court case that established the high hurdles that a plaintiff must clear - including their own status as a public figure and the defendant's status as a media outlet - in a defamation action. That probably has more to do with the spineless liberals that still control the legal profession and less to do with the law established in that case.

At a recent event hosted by none other than Time Warner, Justice Scalia did come out against the New York Times standard. John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, wrote on Scalia's remarks and expounded on them in excellent detail.

As a former media member, I can say that defamation is not something that you stay up late at night worrying about because of the law created out of the New York Times case. "Actual malice" is a high bar, indeed, and one that is rarely reached. It was refreshing to read of Scalia's remarks, as it offers some slim hope that the exorbitant protections afforded the media in this arena might one day diminish.

One point of disagreement with Justice Scalia - he was quoted as saying, "The press is the only business that is not held responsible for its negligence." That certainly is not true. For starters, take a look at the complete lack of snow across Knox County and explain how our meteorologists are held responsible for their negligence. (For all you kids out there, don't try to be a professional like a doctor or a lawyer. Be a meteorologist. Less student debt + Less time in school + No real responsibility or ramifications + Cool technology to play with = One very cool job.)

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