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SULLIVAN defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless

he proves that the statement was made with actual malice
Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Sullivan (Plaintiff) sued
– that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless
the Defendant, the New York Times Co. (Defendant), for
disregard of whether it was false or not.
printing an advertisement about the civil rights movement
* The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court)
in the south that defamed the Plaintiff.
holds that the Constitution delimits a State’s power to
award damages for libel in actions brought by public
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The constitutional guarantees
officials against critics of their official conduct. In this case,
require a federal rule that prohibits a public official from
the rule requiring proof of actual malice is applicable.
recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to
* The Defendant’s failure to retract the advertisement
his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was
upon the Plaintiff’s demand is not adequate evidence of
made with actual malice – that is, with knowledge that it
malice for constitutional purposes. Likewise, it is not
was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false
adequate evidence of malice that the Defendant failed to
or not.
check the advertisements accuracy against the news stories
Facts: The Plaintiff was one of three Commissioners of in the Defendant’s own files. Also, the evidence was
Montgomery, Alabama, who claimed that he was defamed constitutionally defective in another respect: it was
in a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times. The incapable of supporting the jury’s finding that the allegedly
advertisement was entitled, “Heed Their Rising Voices” and libelous statements were made of and concerning the
it charged in part that an unprecedented wave of terror Plaintiff.
had been directed against those who participated in the Concurrence. Justice Hugo Black (J. Black) argued that the
civil rights movement in the South. Some of the particulars First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution do
of the advertisement were false. Although the not merely “delimit” a State’s power to award damages,
advertisement did not mention the Plaintiff by name, he but completely prohibit a State from exercising such a
claimed that it referred to him indirectly because he had power. The Defendant had an absolute, unconditional right
oversight responsibility of the police. The Defendant to publish criticisms of the Montgomery agencies and
claimed that it authorized publication of the advertisement officials.
because it did not have any reason to believe that its
Discussion. In order for a public official to recover in a
contents were false. There was no independent effort to
defamation action involving his official conduct, malice
check its accuracy. The Plaintiff demanded that the
must be proved. Without the showing of malice, the
Defendant retract the advertisement. The Defendant was
Supreme Court felt that a defamation action in this case
puzzled as to why the Plaintiff thought the advertisement
would severely cripple the safeguards of freedom speech
reflected adversely on him. The jury found the ad libe
and expression that are guaranteed in the First Amendment
lous per se and actionable without proof of malice. The jury
of the Constitution and applicable to the States via the
awarded the Plaintiff $500,000 in damages. The Alabama
Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Supreme Court affirmed. The Defendant appealed.
Issue: Is the Defendant liable for defamation for printing an
advertisement, which criticized a public official’s official Facts:
George Rosenbloom distributed nudist magazines in the
Ruling: No. Reversed and remanded. Philadelphia area. Police arrested him at his home on
* Safeguards for freedom of speech and of the press are obscenity charges and seized several of the magazines. A
required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the local news broadcast, run by Metromedia, Inc., reported on
United States Constitution (Constitution) in a libel action the arrest, but failed to use the words “allegedly” or
brought by a public official against critics of his official “reportedly” in during one broadcast. In subsequent
conduct. broadcasts, the reporters called Rosenbloom and other
* Under Alabama law, a publication is libelous per se if the similar distributors “girlie look peddlers” and “smut
words tend to injure a person in his reputation or to bring distributors”. Eventually, Rosenbloom was acquitted on the
him into public contempt. The jury must find that the words obscenity charges.
were published of and concerning the plaintiff. Once libel
per se has been established, the defendant has no defense Rosenbloom then sued Metromedia for libel. The district
as to stated facts unless he can persuade the jury that they court held that the First Amendment standard, which
were true in all their particulars. allowed recovery of damages only for knowingly and
* Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate and it recklessly false statements, did not apply because
Rosenbloom was not a public official or figure. The court
must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to
instead instructed the jury to award damages where
have the breathing space that the need to survive.
Metromedia did not use reasonable care to discern the
* The constitutional guarantees require a federal rule that truth before broadcasting. The jury awarded Rosenbloom
prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a general and punitive damages, although the district court
reduced the punitive damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals Whether the articles of Tulfo are protected as qualified
for the Third Circuit reversed, holding that the knowingly privileged communication or are defamatory and written
and recklessly false standard applied. with malice, for which he would be liable.

Issues: Ruling:

Freedom of the press was given greater weight over the

(1) Should the knowingly and recklessly false standard for
rights of individuals however, such freedom is not absolute
defamatory statements apply to private individuals?
and unbounded. The exercise of this right or any right
enshrined in the Bill of Rights, indeed, comes with an equal
(2) If so, is the evidence presented at trial enough to
burden of responsible exercise of that right. The
support the damages originally awarded to Rosenbloom?
recognition of a right is not free license for the one claiming
it to run roughshod over the rights of others.
The exercise of press freedom must be done consistent
Yes, No. In a 5-3 decision, Justice William J. Brennan wrote with good faith and reasonable care. This was clearly
the judgment of the court affirming the Third Circuit abandoned by Tulfo when he wrote the subject articles.
decision. The Supreme Court held that the knowingly and This is no case of mere error or honest mistake, but a case
recklessly false standard applied because the story was a of a journalist abdicating his responsibility to verify his story
matter of public concern. It did not matter that and instead misinforming the public. Journalists may be
Rosenbloom was a private citizen. The Court also held that allowed an adequate margin of error in the exercise of their
the evidence in the case did not support the damages profession, but this margin does not expand to cover every
award under the proper constitutional standard. defamatory or injurious statement they may make in the
furtherance of their profession, nor does this margin cover
Justice Hugo L. Black wrote a special concurrence, stating
total abandonment of responsibility.
that the First Amendment protected the news media from
libel judgments even where the broadcaster knows their Petition is dismissed. The CA decision is affirmed with
statements were false. Justice Byron R. White also wrote a modification.
special concurrence, asserting that the press have the
privilege to comment on official actions of public servants, 11. AYER PRODUCTIONS PTY. LTD. V. CAPULONG
such as the police, in full detail.
Justice John M. Harlan wrote a dissent, expressing that
Petitioner McElroy an Australian film maker, and his movie
states should be free to impose a duty of reasonable care in
production company, Ayer Productions, envisioned,
defamation actions involving private citizens. He would
sometime in 1987, for commercial viewing and for
remand the case for further consideration of whether
Philippine and international release, the historic peaceful
Rosenbloom sustained actual harm and whether
struggle of the Filipinos at EDSA. The proposed motion
Metromedia acted with actual malice. Justice Thurgood
picture entitled "The Four Day Revolution" was endorsed
Marshall also wrote a dissent, stating that the court should
by the MTRCB as and other government agencies consulted.
limit damages in libel actions by private citizens to actual
Ramos also signified his approval of the intended film
losses. Justice William O. Douglas did not participate.
It is designed to be viewed in a six-hour mini-series
Facts: television play, presented in a "docu-drama" style, creating
four fictional characters interwoven with real events, and
Atty. Carlos Ding So of the Bureau of Customs filed and utilizing actual documentary footage as background. David
charged petitioners Erwin Tulfo, as author/writer, Susan Williamson is Australia's leading playwright and Professor
Cambri, as managing editor, Rey Salao, as national editor, McCoy (University of New South Wales) is an American
Jocelyn Barlizo, as city editor, and Philip Pichay, as historian have developed a script.
president of the Carlo Publishing House, Inc., of the daily
tabloid Remate, with the crime of libel. That private Enrile declared that he will not approve the use,
respondent was indicated as an extortionist, a corrupt appropriation, reproduction and/or exhibition of his name,
public official, smuggler and having acquired his wealth or picture, or that of any member of his family in any
illegally. cinema or television production, film or other medium for
advertising or commercial exploitation. petitioners acceded
RTC found petitioners guilty of the crime of Libel. CA to this demand and the name of Enrile was deleted from
affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Hence, Tulfo the movie script, and petitioners proceeded to film the
appealed and raised that the said article is a qualified projected motion picture. However, a complaint was filed
privileged communication and is written without malice. by Enrile invoking his right to privacy. RTC ordered for the
desistance of the movie production and making of any
reference to plaintiff or his family and from creating Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found the statutes invalid
any fictitious character in lieu of plaintiff which because they deterred significantly more speech than
nevertheless is based on, or bears substantial or marked necessary to protect the private interests at stake.
resemblance to Enrile. Hence the appeal.

Does the First Amendment provide protection to speech

that discloses the contents of an illegally intercepted
Whether or Not freedom of expression was violated. communication?

Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens,
Yes. Freedom of speech and of expression includes the the Court held that the First Amendment protects the
freedom to film and produce motion pictures and exhibit disclosure of illegally intercepted communications by
such motion pictures in theaters or to diffuse them through parties who did not participate in the illegal interception.
television. Furthermore thecircumstance that the "In this case, privacy concerns give way when balanced
production of motion picture films is a commercial activity against the interest in publishing matters of public
expected to yield monetary profit, is not importance," wrote Justice Stevens. "[A] stranger's illegal
a disqualification for availing of freedom of speech and conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment
of expression. shield from speech about a matter of public concern."
Noting that the negotiations were a matter of public
The projected motion picture was as yet uncompleted and
interest, Justice Stevens wrote that the "debate may be
hence not exhibited to any audience. Neither private
more mundane than the Communist rhetoric that inspired
respondent nor the respondent trial Judge knew what the
Justice Brandeis' classic opinion in Whitney v. California,
completed film would precisely look like. There was, in
but it is no less worthy of constitutional protection."
other words, no "clear and present danger" of any violation
of any right to privacy. Subject matter is one of public 13. MILLER V. CALIFORNIA
interest and concern. The subject thus relates to a highly
critical stage in the history of the country. Facts:

At all relevant times, during which the momentous events, Miller, after conducting a mass mailing campaign to
clearly of public concern, that petitioners propose to film advertise the sale of "adult" material, was convicted of
were taking place, Enrile was a "public figure:" Such public violating a California statute prohibiting the distribution of
figures were held to have lost, to some extent at least, their obscene material. Some unwilling recipients of Miller's
right to privacy. brochures complained to the police, initiating the legal
The line of equilibrium in the specific context of the instant
case between the constitutional freedom of speech and Issue:
of expression and the right of privacy, may be marked out
Is the sale and distribution of obscene materials by mail
in terms of a requirement that the proposed motion picture
protected under the First Amendment's freedom of speech
must be fairly truthful and historical in its presentation of
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that obscene materials
Facts: did not enjoy First Amendment protection. The Court
modified the test for obscenity established in Roth v.
An unidentified person intercepted and recorded a phone
United States and Memoirs v. Massachusetts, holding that
call between the chief union negotiator and the union
"[t]he basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a)
president (the petitioners) during collective-bargaining
whether 'the average person, applying contemporary
negotiations involving a teachers' union and the local
community standards' would find that the work, taken as a
school board. After a teacher-favorable proposal was
whole, appeals to the prurient interest. . . (b) whether the
accepted, a radio commentator played a tape of the
work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way,
intercepted conversation. Petitioners filed suit under both
sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state
federal and state wiretapping laws, alleging that an
law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks
unknown person using an electronic device had
serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." The
surreptitiously intercepted their telephone conversation.
Court rejected the "utterly without redeeming social value"
Rejecting a First Amendment protection defense, the
test of the Memoirs decision.
District Court concluded, in part, that the statutes were
content-neutral laws of general applicability containing "no
indicia of prior restraint or the chilling of free speech."
14. PTA V. CA Also, "whether a picture is obscene or indecent must
depend upon the circumstances of the case, and that
Facts: ultimately, the question is to be decided by the "judgment
In 1983, elements of the Special Anti-Narcotics Group, and of the aggregate sense of the community reached by it."
the Manila Police, seized and confiscated from dealers (Kottinger)
along Manila sidewalks, magazines believed to be obscene. When does a publication have a corrupting tendency, or
These were later burned. One of the publications was when can it be said to be offensive to human sensibilities?
Pinoy Playboy published by Leo Pita.
The issue is a complicated one, in which the fine lines have
He filed an injunction case against the mayor of manila to neither been drawn nor divided.
enjoin him from confiscating more copies of his magazine
and claimed that this was a violation of freedom of speech. Katigbak- "Whether to the average person, applying
The court ordered him to show cause. He then filed an contemporary standards, the dominant theme of the
Urgent Motion for issuance of a temporary restraining material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest."
order against indiscriminate seizure.
Kalaw-Katigbak represented a marked departure from
Defendant Mayor Bagatsing admitted the confiscation and Kottinger in the sense that it measured obscenity in terms
burning of obscence reading materials but admitted that of the "dominant theme" of the work, rather than isolated
these were surrendered by the stall owners and the passages, which were central to Kottinger (although both
establishments were not raided. cases are agreed that "contemporary community
standards" are the final arbiters of what is "obscene").
The other defendant, WPD Superintendent, Narcisco Kalaw-Katigbak undertook moreover to make the
Cabrera, filed no answer. determination of obscenity essentially a judicial question
On January 11, 1984, the trial court issued an Order setting and as a consequence, to temper the wide discretion
the case for hearing on January 16, 1984 "for the parties to Kottinger had given unto law enforcers.
adduce evidence on the question of whether the The latest say on American jurisprudence was Miller v.
publication 'Pinoy Playboy Magazine alleged (sic) seized, California, which expressly abandoned Massachusettes, and
confiscated and/or burned by the defendants, are obscence established "basic guidelines," to wit: "(a) whether 'the
per se or not". average person, applying contemporary standards' would
On February 3, 1984, the trial court promulgated the Order find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient
appealed from denying the motion for a writ of preliminary interest . . .; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a
injunction, and dismissing the case for lack of merit patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined
by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work,
The CA also dismissed the appeal due to the argument that taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or
freedom of the press is not without restraint. scientific value.

In the SC, the petitioner claimed that: The lack of uniformity in American jurisprudence as to what
constitutes "obscenity" has been attributed to the
1. The CA erred in holding that the police officers could reluctance of the courts to recognize the constitutional
without any court warrant or order seize and confiscate dimension of the problem.
petitioner's magazines on the basis simply of their
determination that they are obscene. Apparently, the courts have assumed that "obscenity" is
not included in the guaranty of free speech, an assumption
2. The Court of Appeals erred in affirming the decision of that, as we averred, has allowed a climate of opinions
the trial court and, in effect, holding that the trial court among magistrates predicated upon arbitrary, if vague
could dismiss the case on its merits without any hearing theories of what is acceptable to society.
thereon when what was submitted to it for resolution was
merely the application of petitioner for the writ of In the case at bar, there is no challenge on the right of the
preliminary injunction. State, in the legitimate exercise of police power, to
suppress smut provided it is smut. For obvious reasons,
Issue: smut is not smut simply because one insists it is smut. So is
Was the seizure constitutional? it equally evident that individual tastes develop, adapt to
wide-ranging influences, and keep in step with the rapid
Ruling: advance of civilization. What shocked our forebears, say,
five decades ago, is not necessarily repulsive to the present
No. Petition granted generation.
Test for obscenity: "whether the tendency of the matter But neither should we say that "obscenity" is a bare (no
charged as obscene, is to deprave or corrupt those whose pun intended) matter of opinion. As we said earlier, it is the
minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose divergent perceptions of men and women that have
hands a publication or other article charged as being probably compounded the problem rather than resolved it.
obscene may fall
Undoubtedly, "immoral" lore or literature comes within
the ambit of free expression, although not its protection. In
free expression cases, this Court has consistently been on
the side of the exercise of the right, barring a "clear and
present danger" that would warrant State interference and
action. But the burden to show this lies with the authorities.

"There must be objective and convincing, not subjective or

conjectural, proof of the existence of such clear and
present danger."

As we so strongly stressed in Bagatsing, a case involving the

delivery of a political speech, the presumption is that the
speech may validly be said. The burden is on the State to
demonstrate the existence of a danger, a danger that must
not only be: (1) clear but also, (2) present, to justify State
action to stop the speech.

The Court is not convinced that the private respondents

have shown the required proof to justify a ban and to
warrant confiscation of the literature for which mandatory
injunction had been sought below. First of all, they were
not possessed of a lawful court order: (1) finding the said
materials to be pornography, and (2) authorizing them to
carry out a search and seizure, by way of a search warrant.

Has petitioner been found guilty for publishing obscene

works under Presidential Decrees Nos. 960 and 969? This
not answered, one can conclude that the fact that the
former respondent Mayor's act was sanctioned by "police
power" is no license to seize property in disregard of due
process. The PD’s don’t give the authorities the permission
to execute high-handed acts.

It is basic that searches and seizures may be done only

through a judicial warrant, otherwise, they become
unreasonable and subject to challenge.

There is of course provision for warrantless searches under

the Rules of Court but as the provision itself suggests, the
search must have been an incident to a lawful arrest and it
must be on account fo a crime committed.

The Court rejected the argument that "[t]here is no

constitutional nor legal provision which would free the
accused of all criminal responsibility because there had
been no warrant, and there is no "accused" here to speak
of, who ought to be "punished".

Second, to say that the respondent Mayor could have

validly ordered the raid (as a result of an anti-smut
campaign) without a lawful search warrant because, in his
opinion, "violation of penal laws" has been committed, is to
make the respondent Mayor judge, jury, and executioner
rolled into one.