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Supreme Court of the United States
April 17, 1974, Argued ; June 25, 1974, Decided
[*243] [***732] [**2832] MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue in this case is whether a state statute granting a political candidate a right to equal [***733] space to reply to criticism and attacks on his record by a newspaper violates the guarantees of a free press.
In the fall of 1972, appellee, Executive Director of the Classroom Teachers Association, apparently a teachers' collective-bargaining agent, was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. On September 20, 1972, and again on September 29, 1972, appellant printed editorials critical of appellee's candidacy. 2 [****6] In [*244] response to these editorials [**2833] appellee demanded that appellant print verbatim his replies, defending the role of the Classroom Teachers Association and the organization's accomplishments for the citizens of Dade County. [****5] Appellant declined to print the appellee's replies, and appellee brought suit in Circuit Court, Dade County, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and actual and punitive damages in excess of $ 5,000. The action was premised on Florida Statute § 104.38 (1973), a "right of reply" statute which provides that if a candidate for nomination or election is assailed regarding his personal character or official record by any newspaper, the candidate has the right to demand that the newspaper print, free of cost to the candidate, any reply the candidate may make to the newspaper's charges. The reply must appear in as conspicuous a place and in the same kind of type as the charges which prompted the reply, provided it does not take up more space than the charges. Failure to comply with the statute constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor. 3
[*245] Appellant [***734] sought a declaration that § 104.38 was unconstitutional. After an emergency hearing requested by appellee, the Circuit Court denied injunctive relief because, absent special circumstances, no injunction could properly issue against the [****7] commission of a crime, and held that § 104.38 was unconstitutional as an infringement on the freedom of the press under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. 38 Fla. Supp. 80 (1972). The Circuit Court concluded that dictating what a newspaper must print was no different from dictating what it must not print. The Circuit Judge viewed the statute's vagueness as serving "to restrict and stifle protected expression." Id., at 83. Appellee's cause was dismissed with prejudice.
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418 U.S. 241 *; 94 S. Ct. 2831 **; 41 L. Ed. 2d 730 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 86 ****; 1 Media L. Rep. 1898
MIAMI HERALD PUBLISHING CO., DIVISION OF KNIGHT NEWSPAPERS, INC. v. TORNILLO
Prior History: [****1] APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
Disposition: 287 So. 2d 78, reversed.
press, newspaper, print, reply, editorial, publish, candidate, reputation, monopoly, damages, libel, views, freedom of the press, regulation, editors, media
Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Free Press, General Overview, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, Scope, Political Speech