20 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/rwulr20 and id is 1 raw text is: 













Articles




The Promises of New York Times v.

Sullivan


David  A. Anderson*


    By  any  measure,  New  York  Times  Co. v. Sullivanl was  a
monumental decision.   It altered American   politics, journalism,
and public life, for better and worse. It freed the press from the
handcuffs of archaic libel doctrines, and it removed the constraints
of provable truth. It stripped away some of the legal underbrush
that public officials relied on to conceal their misdeeds, and it
liberated  attack dogs  in  political campaigns.    It subjected
celebrities to levels of scrutiny  that press  agents  could not
prevent, and it abetted the creation of celebrity culture.
    Justice Brennan's opinion for the Court downplayed the case's
significance. Indeed, Brennan  went  out of his way to make  the
changes  wrought  by the decision seem  incremental.2 But  many
saw  in the decision potentially revolutionary ideas about freedom

* Fred and Emily Wulff Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas Law
School. I thank Kathleen Pritchard and Caitlyn Hubbard for their research
assistance.
    1. 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
    2. For example, by analogizing the new actual malice rule to a like
rule, which has been adopted by a number of state courts,  id. at 280, and by
claiming that the new rule is appropriately analogous to the protection
accorded a public official when he is sued for libel by a private citizen, id. at
282.  The alleged like rule was a far less protective common law rule
accepted in a minority of states, and the protection accorded a public official
was absolute while the actual malice rule was not.


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