Fifty years ago today…

…the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in what was to become one of its most celebrated tort reform decisions. A profitable national manufacturer had been sued in a distant rural state in which it was decidedly unpopular, resulting in a runaway jury verdict which it sought to challenge on appeal. Pointing out the disadvantages of unpredictable and locally variable tort standards, the corporation’s lawyers pushed for a more uniform and modern standard of liability suited to a nationwide market, which the high court agreed unanimously to develop for the occasion and impose on state courts. And ever since 1964, the winning party in the case — that is to say, the New York Times Company — has taken a sympathetic editorial interest in the plight of other national businesses subjected to runaway verdicts in local courts.

Well, OK, maybe not that last sentence. But the rest of it did happen, in the celebrated case of New York Times v. Sullivan.


  • And ever since that day, the malice standard has spawned an arrogant press which knows it cannot be held responsible for its mistakes, sloppy half-assed journalism, and inebriated bar room standards of public debate.

    Nothing in the first amendment says a free press is or should be exempt from responsibility for the damage it causes. Let ’em buy liability insurance like the rest of us.

  • A piquant post, combining rising melody with trenchant sarcasm, swirled with notes of precision, and finishing with a low and hearty chuckle.