Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. - 477 U.S. 242 (1986)
U.S. Supreme Court
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986)
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.
Argued December 3, 1985
Decided June 25, 1986
477 U.S. 242
In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, it was held that, in a libel suit brought by a public official (extended by later cases to public figures), the First Amendment requires the plaintiff to show that, in publishing the alleged defamatory statement, the defendant acted with actual malice. It was further held that such actual malice must be shown with "convincing clarity." Respondents, a nonprofit corporation described as a "citizens' lobby" and its founder, filed a libel action in Federal District Court against petitioners, alleging that certain statements in a magazine published by petitioners were false and derogatory. Following discovery, petitioners moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, asserting that, because respondents were public figures, they were required to prove their case under the New York Times standards, and that summary judgment was proper because actual malice was absent as a matter of law in view of an affidavit by the author of the articles in question that they had been thoroughly researched and that the facts were obtained from numerous sources. Opposing the motion, respondents claimed that an issue of actual malice was presented because the author had relied on patently unreliable sources in preparing the articles. After holding that New York Times applied because respondents were limited-purpose public figures, the District Court entered summary judgment for petitioners on the ground that the author's investigation and research and his reliance on numerous sources precluded a finding of actual malice. Reversing as to certain of the allegedly defamatory statements, the Court of Appeals held that the requirement that actual malice be proved by clear and convincing evidence need not be considered at the summary judgment stage, and that, with respect to those statements, summary judgment had been improperly granted, because a jury could reasonably have concluded that the allegations were defamatory, false, and made with actual malice.
Held: The Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard in reviewing the District Court's grant of summary judgment. Pp. 477 U. S. 247-257.
(a) Summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is "genuine," that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. At the summary judgment stage, the trial judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. There is no such issue unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. In essence, the inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury, or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Pp. 477 U. S. 247-252.
(b) A trial court ruling on a motion for summary judgment in a case such as this must be guided by the New York Times "clear and convincing" evidentiary standard in determining whether a genuine issue of actual malice exists, that is, whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might find that actual malice had been shown with convincing clarity. Pp. 477 U. S. 252-256.
(c) A plaintiff may not defeat a defendant's properly supported motion for summary judgment in a libel case such as this one without offering any concrete evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor, and by merely asserting that the jury might disbelieve the defendant's denial of actual malice. The movant has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact, but the plaintiff is not thereby relieved of his own burden of producing in turn evidence that would support a jury verdict. Pp. 477 U. S. 256-257.
241 U.S.App.D.C. 246, 746 F.2d 1563, vacated and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 477 U. S. 257. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 477 U. S. 268.