Libel: Who Is a Public Official?

"Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open," said the Supreme Court in 1964. In that famous decision (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan), the court ruled that a public official cannot collect libel damages even for false criticism of his official conduct unless he proves "actual malice." But who is a public official? The court did not say. As a result, lower courts have since extended the Times doctrine to reach "officials" ranging from a candidate for Congress to the law partner of a mayoral candidate.

The latest such case...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!