Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts
|Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts|
|Argued February 23, 1967
Decided June 12, 1967
|Full case name||Curtis Publishing Company v. Wally Butts|
|Citations||388 U.S. 130 (more)
94 S. Ct. 2997; 41 L. Ed. 2d 789; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 88; 1 Media L. Rep. 1633
|Prior history||Cert. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
|Subsequent history||No. 37, 351 F.2d 702, affirmed; No. 150, 393 S.W.2d 671, reversed and remanded|
|Libel damages may be recoverable (in this instance against a news organization) if the injured party is a non-public official; but claimants must demonstrate a reckless lack of professional standards on the part of the organization in examining allegations for reasonable credibility.|
|Plurality||Harlan, joined by Clark, Stewart, Fortas|
|Concur/dissent||Black, joined by Douglas|
|Concur/dissent||Brennan, joined by White|
|U.S. Const. amend. I|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of First Amendment protection against defamation claims brought by private individuals.
This case involved a libel lawsuit filed by former Georgia Bulldogs football coach Wally Butts against the Saturday Evening Post. The lawsuit arose from an article in the magazine alleging that Butts and Alabama head coach Bear Bryant had conspired to fix games.
Opinion of the Court
In a plurality opinion written by Justice John Marshall Harlan II, the Court held that, while news organizations were protected from liability when printing allegations about public officials under the Supreme Court's New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision (1964), they may still be liable to public figures if the information they disseminate is recklessly gathered and unchecked. The Court ultimately ruled in favor of Butts, and the Saturday Evening Post was ordered to pay $3.06 million to Butts in damages, an amount which was later reduced on appeal to $460,000. This settlement was seen as a contributing factor in the demise of the venerable Saturday Evening Post and its parent corporation, the Curtis Publishing Company, two years later. Both Butts and Bryant had sued for $10 million each. Bryant settled for $300,000.
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