Supreme Court Places Limits On Libel

1964

L.B. Sullivan a Montgomery, Ala., city commissioner, sues the New York Times for libel after it publishes a full-page advertisement criticizing anti–civil rights activities in Montgomery. Although the Alabama Supreme Court rules against the newspaper, the Supreme Court reverses that judgment in New York Times v. Sullivan.

The Supreme Court rules that public officials cannot sue for libel unless they prove that a statement was known to be false and made with “actual malice,” meaning that it was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”