Monday, March 25, 2013

Rosenblatt v. Barr case brief

Rosenblatt v. Barr case brief
383 U.S. 75 (1966)

Petitioner journalist challenged a judgment from the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which affirmed an award of damages to respondent county building supervisor in a civil libel action.

OVERVIEW: The Court granted certiorari to review, inter alia, whether the county building supervisor was a public official under the New York Times test.
-Respondent, the former supervisor of a county recreation area who was employed by and responsible to the three county Commissioners, brought this civil libel action in a New Hampshire state court against petitioner whose newspaper column allegedly criticized the fiscal management of the area under respondent's regime and asked the questions, "What happened to all the money last year? and every other year?"

The Court held that to the extent that the trial judge authorized the jury to award the supervisor a recovery without regard to evidence that the asserted implication of the column was specifically made about and concerning the supervisor, the instruction was erroneous.

-The Court held that a theory that the column cast indiscriminate suspicion on the members of the group responsible for the conduct of the governmental operation was tantamount to a demand for recovery based on libel of government and was constitutionally insufficient.
-The Court determined that the public official designation applied, at the very least, to those among the hierarchy of government employees who had, or appear to the public to have had, substantial responsibility for or control over the conduct of governmental affairs.
-The Court concluded that it was for the trial judge in the first instance to determine whether the proofs showed the supervisor to be a public official.

OUTCOME: The Court reversed the judgment from the state supreme court that was in favor of the county building supervisor and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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