Howard v. Lyons
360 U.S. 593 (1959)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593 (1959)

Howard v. Lyons

No. 57

Argued December 8-9

Restored to the calendar for reargument December 15, 1958

Reargued April 20-21, 1959

Decided June 29, 1959

360 U.S. 593

Syllabus

While petitioner was a Captain in the Navy and Commander of the Boston Naval Shipyard, he withdrew recognition of the Federal Employees Veterans Association, of which respondents were officers, and sent an official report of his action, reciting his dissatisfaction with the activities of the Association, to the Chief of the Bureau of Ships and the Chief of Industrial Relations of the Department of the Navy. In accordance with the policy and usual practice of the Navy, he also sent copies of the report to the members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Respondents sued him in a Federal District Court for libel, alleging malice. In defense, he pleaded absolute privilege.

Held:

1. The validity of petitioner's claim of absolute privilege in the performance of his duties as an officer of the Federal Government must be judged by federal standards, to be formulated by the courts in the absence of legislative action by Congress. P. 360 U. S. 567.

2. On the record in this case, it appears that the sending of copies of the report to the Massachusetts congressional delegation, the only publication before this Court, was in the discharge of petitioner's official duties and in relation to matters committed to him for determination. Therefore, his plea of absolute privilege must be sustained. Barr v. Matteo, ante, p. 360 U. S. 564. Pp. 360 U. S. 597-598.

250 F.2d 912 reversed.

Page 360 U. S. 594

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