Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Definitions Of Actual Malice

 

Definitions Of Actual Malice

High-Brow (Formal)

Black’s Law Dictionary defines actual malice: The deliberate intent to commit an injury, as evidenced by external circumstances. Also termed express malice; malice in fact. Cf. implied malice. 2. Defamation. Knowledge (by the person who utters or published a defamatory statement) that a statement is false, or reckless disregard about whether the statement is true. To recover for defamation, a plaintiff who is a public official or public figure must overcome the defendant’s qualified privilege by providing the defendant’s actual malice. And for certain other types of claims, a plaintiff must prove actual malice to recover presumed or punitive damages.

Low-Brow (ELI5)

What does that formal definition of actual malice mean in plain English?

If I were talking to elementary school students, I’d probably go with something like this: Actual malice is when someone lies, on purpose, to hurt another person. When famous people sue over lies, they must prove that the defendants fibbed on purpose.

What Is Actual Malice? Hypothetical Actual Malice Lawsuits

Let’s take a look at a few hypothetical actual malice case studies.

Local Politician/Restaurateur v. Competing Restaurateur

Cathy’s Carnival of Crabs – a fictional Baltimore seafood restaurant – needs customers. Cathy is impatient and devises a scheme to bad-mouth her competition, Larry, proprietor of Larry’s Lobsters & Crabs. (Larry also happens to be a town councilor.)

Cathy thinks that if people believe Larry’s a cad, they’ll shun his restaurant and head to her eatery instead. So, Cathy starts spreading rumors about Larry, online and off. Within weeks of Cathy’s postings, Larry’s business suffers, and he is voted off the Town Council.

In this scenario, Larry would most likely have to prove actual malice to win because he is a local politician; in most jurisdictions, public officials – no matter how local – automatically fall into the “public figure” category.

Now, let’s say Larry won the local election, but his business bombed because of Cathy’s Internet lies. In this scenario, Larry may not have to prove actual malice, as the case would have nothing to do with his standing as a local official, but instead a private business owner.

The Case Of The Feuding Twenty-something Teachers

Jane Doe is an elementary school teacher. Her nemesis, Dane Joe, also teaches at the school. Cutbacks are announced; either Jane or Dane must go. Both head home and post a message on their respective Facebook pages. Jane says:  “It’s between Dane and me. I hate her; I hope the powers that be see how terrible she is.” Dane says: “Jane is a witch. Hate her; Hope TPTB  realize she lets her students cheat on standardized tests.”

Before we get to the discussion, let’s assume that Jane didn’t help students cheat. Let’s also assume that the state’s defamation laws define public school teachers as public figures (which is the case in various jurisdictions).

Under these conditions, Dane is the only teacher that could be at fault for defamation. Why? Under U.S. law, opinions aren’t censored – however unflattering. But harmfully lying about an individual, group, or business is a civil wrong. Since Jane and Dane live in a state that treats public school teachers as public figures, to win, Jane would have to prove actual malice. Given the circumstances, she could argue that Dane knowingly lied in an attempt to make sure Jane didn’t get the job, which would probably satisfy the actual malice standard.

Celebrity v. Gossip Magazine

Tear Down Magazine published an unflattering article about Cecilia the Celebrity’s recent child custody issues. The piece appeared on both Tear Down’s website and in the print edition. The headline read: Cecilia Celebrity Abandoned Her Daughter! Cecelia, however, insists she regularly spends time with her daughter and decides to sue TPD Publications, Tear Down’s distributor, for libel.

In this phony scenario, Cecilia, having celebrity status, would have to prove actual malice to win the defamation case. She’d have to provide evidence that TPD Publications caused her material harm. She’d also have to prove the magazine knew it was publishing false information, but did it anyway.

Now, if a diaper company paid Cecilia to endorse products, and then fired Cecilia over TPD’s accusation, Cecilia could, theoretically, prove loss. If, however, Cecilia simply doesn’t like the insinuation, but cannot provide evidence of falsity and harm, she’d have a tough time winning. More than that, TPD Publications would likely cite “a reliable source” and argue it had no reason to doubt the accusation’s authenticity.

Let’s change the circumstances. Let’s pretend Cecilia isn’t a celebrity. As a private citizen, instead of having to prove actual malice, Cecilia would probably be required to meet the “negligence” standard, meaning she’d have to prove that “a reasonable person” wouldn’t have published the accusation.

What Is Actual Malice? Case Study: New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

One of the most famous United States Supreme Court cases, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan – 1964, established “actual malice” as a parameter in slander and libel lawsuits filed by public figures.

On March 29, 1960 the New York Times ran a full-page advertisement, in support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “Heed Their Rising Voices.”

The ad claimed Alabama police had arrested King seven times when he’d only been arrested four times. Offended by the mistake, and even though the ad didn’t mention him by name, then Montgomery public safety commissioner L.B. Sullivan wrote a retraction request letter to the Times. Why? At the time, Alabama statutes prevented plaintiffs from collecting punitive damages without proof of a retraction request denial.

The New York Times opted not to retract, but instead sent Sullivan a letter expressing puzzlement why he thought “the statements in any way reflected on [him].”

Unsatisfied, Sullivan sued for libel.

Eventually, the case went before the United States Supreme Court. SCOTUS ultimately weighed the constitutionality of Alabama’s defamation law. In a unanimous vote, the Justices ruled in favor of the New York Times because Alabama’s slander and libel statutes didn’t provide enough free speech safeguards.

To ensure a healthy free press, the justices also declared that “actual knowledge of falsity” must be proven in defamation cases, involving matters of public interest, which are filed by public figures.

We hope we’ve answered the question: what is actual malice? If you still have questions, get in touch.

cited https://kellywarnerlaw.com/what-is-actual-malice/

 


Read MORE Below – click the links


We also have the First Amendment Encyclopedia  very comprehensive and encompassing

CURRENT TEST = We also have the TheBrandenburg testfor incitement to violence

We also have the The Incitement to Imminent Lawless Action Test

We also have the True Threats TestVirginia v. Black is most comprehensive Supreme Court definition

We also have the Miller v. California – 3 Prong Obscenity Test (Miller Test) – 1st Amendment 1st

We also have the Obscenity and Pornography ; 1st Amendment

We also have the Watts v. United StatesTrue Threat Test1st Amendment

We also have the Clear and Present Danger Test

We also have the Gravity of the Evil Test

We also have the Miller v. California – 3 Prong Obscenity Test (Miller Test) – 1st Amendment 1st

We also have the Freedom of the Press – Flyers, Newspaper, Leaflets, Peaceful Assembly – 1st Amendment lots of SCOTUS Rulings 

We also have the Insulting letters to politician’s home are constitutionally protected, unless they are ‘true threats’ lots of SCOTUS Rulings 

We also have the Introducing TEXT & EMAIL Digital Evidence in California Courts lots of SCOTUS Rulings 


9.3 Section 1983 Claim Against Defendant in Individual Capacity Elements and Burden of Proof – click here to learn requirements
the CODE ABOVE PROTECTS all US CITIZENS

the code BELOW PROTECTS ALL CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS

California Civil Code Section 52.1 Interference by threat, intimidation or coercion with exercise or enjoyment of individual rights


Recoverable Damages Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 LEARN MORE

New Supreme Court Ruling makes it easier to sue police

42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights

18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of rights under color of law

18 U.S. Code § 241 – Conspiracy against rights

Suing for Misconduct – Know More of Your Rights

Police Misconduct in California – How to Bring a Lawsuit

Recoverable Damages Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983

Section 1983 Lawsuit – How to Bring a Civil Rights Claim