Miami Herald Pub. Co. v. Tornillo,
418 U.S. 241 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Miami Herald Pub. Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974)

Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo

No. 73-797

Argued April 17, 1974

Decided June 25, 1974

418 U.S. 241


After appellant newspaper had refused to print appellee's replies to editorials critical of appellee's candidacy for state office, appellee brought suit in Florida Circuit Court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and damages, based on Florida's "right of reply" statute that grants a political candidate a right to equal space to answer criticism and attacks on his record by a newspaper, and making it a misdemeanor for the newspaper to fail to comply. The Circuit Court held the statute unconstitutional as infringing on the freedom of the press, and dismissed the action. The Florida Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute did not violate constitutional guarantees, and that civil remedies, including damages, were available, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.


1. The Florida Supreme Court's judgment is "final" under 28 U.S.C. § 1257, and thus is ripe for review by this Court. North Dakota Pharmacy Bd. v. Snyder's Stores, 414 U. S. 156. Pp. 418 U. S. 246-247.

2. The statute violates the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press. Pp. 418 U. S. 247-258.

(a) Governmental compulsion on a newspaper to publish that which "reason" tells it should not be published is unconstitutional. P. 418 U. S. 256.

(b) The statute operates as a command by a State in the same sense as a statute or regulation forbidding appellant to publish specified matter. P. 418 U. S. 256.

(c) The statute exacts a penalty on the basis of the content of a newspaper by imposing additional printing, composing, and materials costs and by taking up space that could be devoted to other material the newspaper may have preferred to print. Pp. 418 U. S. 256-257

(d) Even if a newspaper would face no additional costs to comply with the statute and would not be forced to forgo publication of news or opinion by the inclusion of a reply, the statute still fails to clear the First Amendment's barriers because of its

Page 418 U. S. 242

intrusion into the function of editors in choosing what material goes into a newspaper and in deciding on the size and content of the paper and the treatment of public issues and officials. P. 418 U. S. 258.

287 So.2d 78, reversed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring statement, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 418 U. S. 258. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 418 U. S. 259.

Page 418 U. S. 243

Primary Holding

Newspapers are not required to publish replies to an editorial with which people, such as the subject of the editorial, may disagree.


Tornillo was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The Miami Herald criticized his candidacy in editorials, and he sought to have it print his verbatim replies to the criticism under a state right of reply statute. It provided political candidates the right to reply to hostile coverage in a newspaper. When the Miami Herald refused, Tornillo sought declaratory relief and an injunction. The state courts disagreed on whether the right of reply statute was constitutional under the First Amendment.



  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)
  • William Orville Douglas
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

This law is a content-based restriction on a newspaper, so it is a facial violation of the First Amendment. Newspaper editors have the right to control the contents of their publications, and the government is not in a position to override their decisions while protecting free speech.


  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist


  • White (Author)

Case Commentary

Although a politician is entitled to some limited degree of protection against libel and slander, the press has broad powers under the First Amendment to cover topics of public interest.

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