Thursday, November 7, 2013

Miami Herald v. Tornillo case brief

Miami Herald v. Tornillo case brief summary
418 U.S. 241 (1974)

Appellant newspaper sought review of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida, which reversed the trial court's finding that Florida's right of reply statute, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 104.38 (1973), was unconstitutional. The statute provided that a political candidate had the right to demand that a newspaper print any reply of the candidate to criticisms by the newspaper.

After appellant newspaper criticized the political candidacy of appellee, appellee demanded that appellant print his replies to the criticism pursuant to the right of reply statute, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 104.38 (1973). The trial court held that the statute was unconstitutional as an infringement on the freedom of the press. The state supreme court reversed, holding that the statute did not violate constitutional guarantees.

  • The Supreme Court reversed. 
  • The Court found that the statute operated as a command in the same sense as a statute or regulation forbidding appellant to publish specified matter. 
  • The Court found that the statute exacted a penalty on the basis of the content of a newspaper because the compelled printing of a reply interfered with editorial judgment about the choice of material to go into the newspaper and how public issues and officials were treated. 
  • Editors might avoid controversy in the face of such penalties, and political and electoral coverage could be impacted. 
  • The statute thus interfered with guarantees of a free press under the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the state supreme court and held that the statute was unconstitutional.

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