The history of the American nation has been evidently marked with many landmarks legal interpretations of its constitution. The case of New York Times vs. Sullivan is one good example of landmark cases which greatly changed the political thinking of the American population. It is clear from the underlying proceedings of the Supreme Court on the case that the legal understanding of the first and fourth amendments of the civil right bill is not to allow any recovery for media reports unless the complainant can sufficiently prove acts of malice when making the defamatory report (FindLaw, 2010).
This is what marked the many historical appreciations of the media freedom in our legal justice system. It is indeed a direct result of this 1964 ruling that the media gain freedom to sufficient cover the proceedings of civil rights movement thus aiding in the realization of the ultimate inclusion of the black American’s right to the civil rights in the American constitution. This essay is written as a critical analysis of the New York Times vs. Sullivan and how it evidently changed political thinking in America.
The author first gives an analytical discussion on the underlying facts presented in the case. A discussion on how the case set a precedent for public officials and how that is just another thing to consider for public figures getting into politics is also given Summary of the New York Times vs. Sullivan case 1. The trial courts judgment The case of New York Times vs. Sullivan involved a claim by New York Times in an advertisement that the arrest of Martin Luther king junior was a campaign to compromise his efforts in encouraging the blacks to vote (FindLaw, 2010).
The advert claimed that the Montgomery police had been allegedly directed their acts against students who were involved in the civil rights demonstrations. The led to the filing of defamation case against New York Times by Sullivan, a commissioner in the police department at Montgomery (Shah & Anderson, 2007). It is however here to be made clear that the advert was not directly mentioning Sullivan but Sullivan claimed that it was targeting him since he was the chief supervision of the police department in Montgomery. he low court trial judge in Alabaman found the New York Times guilty of committing an actual malice defamatory statements against a public officer and ordered them to pay Sullivan damage worthy half a million US dollars. 2. The Supreme Court’s judgment and its reflection on the first and fourteenth amendment It is however to be realized that the New York Times did not accept the lower court jury’s judgment thus forcing to file an appeal with the supreme court in the quest realizing a fair and just judgment (Tysoe, 2008).
At the Supreme Court, the judges clearly confirmed that the provisions of the first amendment of the civil rights bill did not allow a public officer to be granted damages for defamation unless he or she clearly proves that such statements were made will actual malice against them. Still citing the fourteenth amendment to the constitution, the court ruled out that the states is not obliged to award damages for defamation to a public offices based on falsified claims unless the officers sufficiently proves actual malice in the statements (Shah & Anderson, 2007).
It is also clear from the proceedings at the Supreme Court that an individual statement can never its protection under the American constitution even if it appears in the form of a paid advert. The judges claimed that it is not the purpose of the government to judge the truth and that a public officer must live to take critics from the public unless they can sufficiently proof malicious acts in the statements (Write & Lidsky, 2004).
It was evidently claimed that any act of allowing Sullivan to be paid damages for insufficiently qualified claims of malice could act as a loophole for compromising any future critics to public officers. Still to be noted here is the fact that such any act could greatly compromise genuine critics for fear of intimidation, a move which could evidently compromise the just and fair provision of services by public officers to the general public. It is based on this reasons that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts ruling thus favoring New York Times.
How New York Times vs. Sullivan set a precedent for public officials The first lesson is that it became evidently clear that a public official is subject to public criticism. It is quite clear from existing historical information that the realization of just and fair rules and regulations in the American nation has never been without social movements. Still clear is the fact that such realizations were heavily compromised with public office power interferences (Wright & Lidsky, 2004). The civil right movement of the twentieth century is no exception to this.
It is based on this reasoning and by applying the principles of conclusion by sufficient reasoning that the 1964 interpretation of the American constitution served to protect the political elite and/or public officials from imposing force to the public. Another change that was brought by the impact of the New York Times vs. Sullivan case ruling is that the political elite in the community must be role models (Tysoe, 2008). It is found in the proceedings of the Supreme Court ruling that public officials should be open to critics from the public domain.
This was made to emphasis the fact that such are the leaders who should lead the American nation to the next level of fairness and justice for all in the society. It was only by instilling the fact that the general public has a constitutional right to critique their leaders that political comments made by leaders are subject to self liability. This is what has made the political elite of the American nation respectful of the constitutional provisions thus sufficiently realizing greater levels of justice and fairness in the society (Melbourne University Law Review, 2001).
Still proved by the case is the fact that sufficiently prove of defamation by actual malice is the ultimate reason for claiming legal awarding of damages (Melbourne University Law Review, 2001). The proceedings at the Supreme Court clearly established that the constitutional protection of claimed statement can not be negated due to the fact that such have been expressed in the context of a paid advertisement. This clear makes public officials subject to proving of actual malice in their damage claim suits. It is to be clearly noted that most true expression which go to the media can be easily disputed by the source (FindLaw, 2010).
However, the question of whether or not to get defamatory damages remains subject to the provision of substantial evidence proving actual malice in the presentation of the expressions. How New York Times vs. Sullivan is just another thing to consider for public figures getting into politics The ruling in the case of the New York Times vs. Sullivan also instilled the lesson that no one in the American land is above the rule of law as provided in the constitution. Clear from the ruling of the lower court, it can be claimed that the jury sort less evidence to make the judgment in favor of Sullivan (Wright & Lidsky, 2004).
This could be closely attributed to the fact that the government was out to control the progression of the Martin Luther King led civil rights movement. It is however clear from the Supreme Court judgment that despite such previous rulings on the case the constitutional provisions must be respected and applied equally to all in the society (Melbourne University Law Review, 2001). The provision for proving actual malice for compensation of defamation of an individual’s reputation should equally respect all even the politically advantaged in the society.
It is this that made political influence on justice provisions mitigated thus respecting the rule of rule as reflected in the constitutional provision for independence of the judiciary. Another lesson from the case is that of limiting claim for awarding damage due to purported defamatory speech (Tysoe, 2008). From the advertisement that led to the defamation claims by Sullivan, it is quite clear that it claimed to be the onset of a new pattern of modern freedom. According to the ruling of the Supreme Court, it is quite clear that the constitution sufficiently protects the human right to speech.
It is due to this that it found no sufficient claim of defamation in Sullivan’s claims due to the fact that the students involve were being deprived of their constitutional right to speech (Shah & Anderson, 2007). It is based on this reasoning that the ruling changing our political approaches to reflective our constitutional right to speech. The last lesson from the case ruling is that it made it clear that freedom of the press must be respected. It is to be noted here that the sole duties of the media is to provide news to the general public on occurrences around them.
It is due to this reason that any act of compromise quality and accuracy of such news must be mitigated. Still to be understood here is the fact that the advertisement published by the New York Times was made for overseeing the fair and just execution of the underlying demands of the civil rights movement (Melbourne University Law Review, 2001). This is what made the ruling a greatly political influence blow in civil matters. Still realized from the ruling is the ultimate realizing of freedom of press. Indeed the New York Times vs. Sullivan led to the protection of the media against intimidation in covering the civil rights movement. It is thus clear that the ruling changed the perception the political and public officials had with regard to the media in the society.
Conclusion In conclusion, it has been clearly established that the Supreme Court ruling in the case of the New York Times vs. Sullivan marked the dawn of respect for freedom to speech and the press by public officials. It is thus clear that such a case qualifies to be a landmark case in the history of the American nation. It is this court ruling which mitigated misuse of public office and/or political power to impose legal awards for damages without sufficiently prove of actual malice.