Clarence Thomas Thinks Key First Amendment Case Wrong
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the reversal of a key legal standard that makes it harder for public figures to sue the media and others for defamation. Thomas thinks the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan -- a 1964 decision which says that the Constitution creates a higher barrier for public figures to claim libel -- should be reconsidered. Sullivan was based on the fact that the framers of the Constitution opposed criminal punishment for criticisms of public officials. But Thomas says the authors did not mean they opposed “providing an accessible civil defamation remedy” for politicians. "Far from increasing a public figure’s burden in a defamation action, the common law deemed libels against public figures to be, if anything, more serious and injurious than ordinary libels," Thomas wrote. "Libel of a public official was deemed an offense 'most dangerous to the people, and deserv[ing of] punishment, because the people may be deceived and reject the best citizens to their great injury, and it may be to the loss of their liberties.'" He also said the framers would not have wanted federal law to trump state law. "If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we," he continued. Thomas' opinion comes alongside a court decision not to take up the case of a woman who accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct in 2014 and afterward claimed Cosby and his lawyers had defamed her. Coincidentally, Donald Trump has repeatedly called for laws that would make it easier to sue for defamation. More here.