Saturday, November 17, 2012

JUSTICE ALITO OPENS DOOR TO DISCUSSION OF NEW YORK TIMES VS. SULLIVAN

Justice Alito gives insight to Free Speech and the Court.  ""The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely, media corporations," he said. "Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech."

New York Times vs. Sullivan in my opinion may be one of the worst decisions of the Supreme Court in its history.  It overruled a well known liberty interest preserved at common law and documented since the first recordings of law.  The right to your reputation.  Over the last 40 years the Court has all but abrogated any right we have to our reputation.  It was a decision to confer on the corporate owned press special privileges which have nothing to do with Free Speech.  The decision took away from journalist the duty to be truthful.  The decision did irreparable harm to journalism.  A cogent argument can be made the demise of the press today is directly tied to the decision in New York Times vs. Sullivan.  Every educated reader knows , the press has no duty to print the truth.  Given this simple fact, why should we consider the press as a credible source?

Justice Alito's comment has one of two implications.  He is saying it may be time to revisit the special privileges conferred on the press, or it is time to extend that privilege to everyone.  The latter would be disastrous.

Article I, § 8 of the Texas Constitution preserved the common law correctly.  "Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that privilege.   Today you will not hear the so called States Rights people calling for enforcement of the Texas Constitution.   The federal and state constitution bar prior restraint of speech, not punishment for bad speech.  The press like everyone else can say whatever they please, but when they print lies or defame people they are to be held  responsible for the abuse of that privilege.

The key language in the First Amendment "Congress shall make no law ..., abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."  Again, by its plain language the protection goes to prior restraint. not abrogating responsibility for defamation. 

It is time the Court consider honoring the plain language of the First Amendment and restoring the long held common law inherent right to our reputation.

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