Sullivan vs. New York Times Co.
Region: North America
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Medium: Print Journalism
Artist: New York Times
Confronting Bodies: L. B. Sullivan, Police Chief of Montgomery, Alabama
Date of Action: 1960
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Description of Artwork: A signed ad that appeared in the New York Times on March 29, 1960 in support of civil rights marchers, criticizing the Alabama State Police and the Montgomery, Alabama police force for their unfair treatment of the marchers. Although the Montgomery Police Chief, L. B. Sullivan, was not named in the advertisement, the criticism of the actions by the police were considered as defamation against him as well by virtue of his position and duty to supervise the police department.
The Incident: Sullivan sued the New York Times Co. and won damages equaling $500,000 because of minor factual errors in the article.
Results of Incident: The Supreme Court reversed the libel judgment in 1964, saying that the First Amendment protected "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" criticism of public officials, at least unless it could be proved that the critic was deliberately lying or showed "reckless disregard" for the truth.
Source: Sex, Sin and Blasphemy, Marjorie Heins, New Press,'93, NYC; Wikipedia