Garrison v. Louisiana
379 U.S. 64 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64 (1964)

Garrison v. Louisiana

No. 4

Argued April 22,1964

Restored to the calendar for reargument June 22, 1964

Reargued October 19, 1964

Decided November 23, 1964

379 U.S. 64

Syllabus

Appellant, a District Attorney in Louisiana, during a dispute with certain state court judges of his parish, accused them at a press conference of laziness and inefficiency and of hampering his efforts to enforce the vice laws. A state court convicted him of violating the Louisiana Criminal Defamation Statute, which, in the context of criticism of official conduct, includes punishment for true statements made with "actual malice" in the sense of ill-will, as well as false statements if made with ill-will or without reasonable belief that they were true. The state supreme court affirmed the conviction, holding that the statute did not unconstitutionally abridge appellant's rights of free expression.

Held:

1. The Constitution limits state power to impose sanctions for criticism of the official conduct of public officials, in criminal cases as in civil cases, to false statements concerning official conduct made with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,376 U. S. 254, followed. Pp. 379 U. S. 67-75.

2. Appellant's accusations concerned the judges' official conduct and, did not become private defamation because they might also have reflected on the judges' private character. Pp. 379 U. S. 76-77.

244 La. 787, 154 So. 2d 400, reversed.

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