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(case no.


403 US 29
June 7, 1971
Art. III
Petitioner was a distributor of nudist magazines in Philadelphia. In response to the
complaints of the citizens, the Special Investigations Squad of the Philadelphia Police
Department initiated a series of enforcement actions under the obscenity laws of the city. The
police purchased various magazines which were subsequently determined as obscene. Most of
the newsstand operators were arrested on charges of selling obscene materials. While the police
were making arrests, petitioner arrived to deliver some of his nudist magazines and was arrested.
Three days later, police obtained a search warrant for petitioners home and rented barn he uses
as warehouse. The inventory of magazines and books found in the locations were seized.
Petitioner was released on bail, but he was arrested for the 2nd time.
Following the 2nd arrest, Captain Ferguson telephoned respondents radio station (WIP)
and other local radio stations, and a local newspaper informing them of the raid on petitioners
home and of his arrest. WIP broadcasted the event on October 4, 1963. It was broadcasted
several times but from October 5 to 21, WIP did not broadcast further reports relating to the
Petitioner brought an action in the Federal District Court alleging that the magazines he
distributed were not obscene and for the defamatory broadcasts. The jury acquitted petitioner in
the State Court and he filed a case for damages. He contends that the broadcasts of October 4
describing his arrest, constituted libel per se and was proved false by petitioners
subsequent acquittal. District court awarded the damages, Court of Appeals reversed the
Hence, the appeal.
Whether WIPs October 4 broadcasts regarding the arrest of the petitioner constituted
No. The libel law holds actionable any unprivileged malicious publication of matter
tending to harm a persons reputation and expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.
Pennsylvanias libel laws recognize truth as a complete defense to a libel action. The burden
of proof lies with the petitioner to prove that (a) one or more of the broadcasts were defamatory;
(b) that a reasonable listener would conclude that it refers to the petitioner; (c) that WIP forfeited
privilege to report official proceedings fairly and accurately that it intends to injure the plaintiff
personally; and (d) that the reporting was false. Petitioner was not able to comply with the
requirements of proof sufficiently.
The police activities which were aimed at implementing the obscenity laws were for the
interest of the public. The Court opined that if a matter is subject of public or general
interest, it cannot suddenly become less so merely because a private individual is involved.
Pennsylvanias libel law recognizes that societys interest in protecting individual reputation
often yields to other important social goals.

Prepared by: Cecille Diane DJ. Mangaser

(case no. 420)

Prepared by: Cecille Diane DJ. Mangaser