Legal Edge: Should the Supreme Court redefine ‘libel’and ‘slander’ for public officials?

Legal Edge

WASHINGTON DC (WLNS) – Last Friday, U.S. Supreme Court justices met to discuss whether they’ll hear a number of cases, including 2 involving libel.

As local attorney Bryan Waldman told 6 News, the core issue is whether the Supreme Court should revisit a case that was decided in 1964 that defined what the standard is by public officials for libel and slander.

Prior to Sullivan v The New York Times, laws surrounding libel and slander in the U.S. were similar to other countries. The U.S. adopted the English Common Law interpretation where if someone says something that harms another’s reputation, they can be sued and then they must have the burden of proof showing that what they said was true, said Waldman.

“So one of the cases involves a case brought by a former police officer. Who’s on a commission that reviews police officers or their work in the city of Philadelphia. And the lawsuit is brought against something called the Plain View Project, which publishes Facebook posts by police officers and former police officers that they believe are either racist or misogynist or endorse violence and arresting people or doing policing duties. And the argument here is that the law needs to be changed because the world has changed with social media. There’s a whole different way of covering things. There’s a whole different way to potentially defame public figures and other people,” said Waldman.

“But at least two of the justices on the Supreme Court have said, they’d like to see the court consider whether or not to change the law that accesses the result of Sullivan v The New York Times. Justice Thomas has said it in the past and justice Gorsuch has recently said, ‘Hey, because of these changes in technology, it’s something I’d be interested in doing.'”

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