Rosenbloom v. Metromedia
403 U.S. 29 (1971)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Rosenbloom v. Metromedia, 403 U.S. 29 (1971)

Rosenbloom v. Metromedia

No. 66

Argued December 7, 1970

Decided June 7, 1971

403 U.S. 29

Syllabus

Respondent's radio station, which broadcast news reports every half hour, broadcast news stories of petitioner's arrest for possession of obscene literature and the police seizure of "obscene books," and stories concerning petitioner's lawsuit against certain officials alleging that the magazines he distributed were not obscene and seeking injunctive relief from police interference with his business. These latter stories did not mention petitioner's name, but used the terms "smut literature racket" and "girlie-book peddlers." Following petitioner's acquittal of criminal obscenity charges, he filed this diversity action in District Court seeking damages under Pennsylvania's libel law. The jury found for petitioner and awarded $25,000 in general damages; and $725,000 in punitive damages, which was reduced by the court on remittitur to $250,000. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,376 U. S. 254, standard applied, and "the fact that plaintiff was not a public figure cannot be accorded decisive significance."

Held: The judgment is affirmed. Pp. 403 U. S. 40-62.

415 F.2d 892, affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concluded that the New York Times standard of knowing or reckless falsity applies in a state civil libel action brought by a private individual for a defamatory falsehood uttered in a radio news broadcast about the individual's involvement in an event of public or general interest. Pp. 403 U. S. 40-57.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK concluded that the First Amendment protects the news media from libel judgments even when statements are made with knowledge that they are false. P. 403 U. S. 57.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concluded that, in the absence of actual malice as defined in New York Times, supra, the First Amendment gives the news media a privilege to report and comment upon the official actions of public servants in full detail, without sparing from public view the reputation or privacy of an individual involved in or affected by any official action. Pp. 403 U. S. 59-62.

Page 403 U. S. 30

BRENNAN, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined. BLACK, J., post, p. 403 U. S. 57, and WHITE, J., post, p. 403 U. S. 57, filed opinions concurring in the judgment. HARLAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 403 U. S. 62. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 403 U. S. 78. DOUGLAS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

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