Time, Inc. v. Pape - 401 U.S. 279 (1971)
U.S. Supreme Court
Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279 (1971)
Time, Inc. v. Pape
Argued December 16, 1970
Decided February 24, 1971
401 U.S. 279
In a discussion of "police brutality and related private violence" in its 1961 Report, the Civil Rights Commission mentioned the case of Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167, and listed some of the allegations of Monroe's civil rights complaint filed against certain Chicago policemen headed by Deputy Chief of Detectives Pape. In an article about the Report, Time magazine quoted from a summary of the complaint, without indicating that the charges were Monroe's, and not the independent findings of the Commission. Pape sued the petitioner publisher for libel. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's grant of Time's motion for summary judgment, holding that there had to be a trial on the question of whether Time's failure to make clear that it was reporting no more than allegations showed "actual malice" (knowledge that the information was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not) under the rule of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254. At the trial, the author of the article and the researcher admitted awareness that the wording of the Report had been significantly altered, but insisted that its real meaning had not been changed. The District Court granted Time's motion for a directed verdict at the close of the evidence, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the jury should determine whether the omission of the word "alleged" showed "actual malice." Both courts agreed that Pape was a "public official," and that the article concerned his "official conduct."
Held: In the circumstances of this case, the magazine did not engage in a "falsification" sufficient, in itself, to sustain a jury finding of "actual malice." Pp. 401 U. S. 284-292.
(a) The magazine's omission of the word "alleged" amounted to the adoption of one of several rational interpretations of a document bristling with ambiguities, and while that choice might reflect a misconception, it was not enough to create a jury issue of "malice" under the rule of New York Times, supra, as it would impose a stricter standard of liability on errors of interpretation or judgment than on errors of historic fact. P. 401 U. S. 290.
(b) This holding is confined to the specific facts of this case, and nothing herein is to be understood as making the word "alleged" a superfluity in published reports of information damaging to reputation. P. 401 U. S. 292.
419 F.2d 980, reversed and remanded.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BLACK, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which DOUGLAS, J., joined, ante, p. 401 U. S. 277. HARLAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 401 U. S. 293.