459 U.S. 999 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

LAWRENCE v. BAUER PUB. & PRINTING LTD. , 459 U.S. 999 (1982)

459 U.S. 999

Alonzo W. LAWRENCE and James Simpson
No. 82-130

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 1982

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice REHNQUIST, dissenting.

Because of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in this case, "(t) wo highly motivated senior citizens are left without redress for libelous publications holding them up to contempt and ridicule in the community in which they have lived for many years. This is the result of their sincere attempt to participate in local government." 89 N.J. 451, 446 A.2d 469 ( 1982) (Schreiber, J., dissenting). Because I think that the decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey was based on an erroneous belief that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution required it, notwithstanding society's "pervasive and strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon reputation," Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75, 86, 676 (1966), I dissent from the denial of certiorari.

Page 459 U.S. 999 , 1000

Petitioners, Lawrence and Simpson, were officers of a citizens group called Rahway Taxpayers Association. In 1974, the Association began a petition drive seeking a public referendum on plans to construct a new municipal firehouse. In late December, 1974, petitions containing over 5, 000 signatures were submitted to the Rahway City Clerk. On January 9, 1975, the Rahway News-Record, a newspaper owned and operated by respondents, printed the following headline across the top of its front page: "City Attorney Rules Association Petitions Improper; Forgery Charges May Loom for Lawrence, Simpson." The accompanying article stated in pertinent part:

"In separate actions city attorney Alan Karcher ruled the petitions filed by the officials of the Rahway Taxpayers Association are improper and attorney Theodore J. Romankow was asked to take action by city officials against association leaders because of 'irregularities' in the petitions.

The Rahway News-Record learned Mr. Romankow was empowered to handle a case against Alonzo W. Lawrence, president of the Association, and James Simpson, the group's secretary-treasurer.

The case would be based on charges that forgery was involved in the gathering of approximately 5,000 signatures which the two men filed with the city clerk Robert W. Schrof on December 17, the News- Record was told.

In connection with this the men would also be charged with false swearing of oaths and affidavits, it was asserted.' 89 N.J., at 456, 446 A.2d., at 471.

In response to petitioners' request that the News-Record retract these allegations, the newspaper ran a second front-page story on April 17, 1975. The headline read: "News-Record Asked to Retract Article on Firehouse Battle." Rather than give a retraction, the newspaper proceeded to reiterate and defend its earlier story claiming that the story was based [459 U.S. 999 , 1001]

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