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Law School Case Brief

Rosenbloom v. Metromedia - 403 U.S. 29, 91 S. Ct. 1811 (1971)

Rule:

A libel action by a private individual against a licensed radio station for a defamatory falsehood in a newscast relating to his involvement in an event of public or general concern may be sustained only upon clear and convincing proof that the defamatory falsehood was published with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Calculated falsehood, of course, falls outside the fruitful exercise of the right of free speech.

Facts:

Petitioner distributed nudist magazines and was arrested on charges of possession of obscene literature. Following petitioner's arrest, respondent broadcast reports of the arrest over the radio. A jury acquitted petitioner of the criminal obscenity charges and petitioner filed suit against respondent, alleging that respondent's unqualified characterization of materials seized from petitioner as obscene in respondent's broadcasts constituted libel per se and was proved false by petitioner's acquittal. Petitioner's defenses were truth and privilege. The district court held in favor of petitioner and the appellate court reversed, concluding that petitioner's evidence did not meet the requisite clear and convincing proof that the statements alleged as libel were uttered with knowledge that such were false or with reckless disregard of whether they were false. 

Issue:

Did the petitioner fail to meet the standard of proof necessary to create jury issue?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held the appellate court had correctly stated the standard of proof necessary in order for petitioner to prevail, and because petitioner failed to meet that standard with the requisite convincing clarity in order to create jury issue, the judgment of the appellate court was affirmed.

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