Free Press

New York Times v. Sullivan & United States

New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)

  • The Times ran a fundraising advertisement signed by civil-rights leaders that criticized, among other things, certain actions of the Montgomery, Ala. police department
  • Although no names were mentioned, L. B. Sullivan, Montgomery's police commissioner, sued the Times for libel and won $500,000 in an Alabama court
  • The newspaper appealed and made it up to the Supreme Court
  • The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice

New York Times v. United States (1971)

  • In 1971 the newspaper had obtained a copy of documents known as "The Pentagon Papers"- an internal defense department report that detailed government deception with regard to the Vietnam War
  • The Pentagon Papers were illegally copied and then leaked to the press. The New York Times and the Washington Post had obtained the documents
  • The United States district court in New York issued a temporary injunction- a court order- that directed The New York Times not to publish the documents. The Government claimed that the publication of the papers would endanger the security of the United States
  • The New York Times appealed the order to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that prior restraint- preventing publication- violated the 1st Amendment
  • By a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled in favor of The New York Times. The First Amendment rights of the Constitution should be absolute, despite the Government