First Amendment Library:
Arthur H. Nighswander


A jury in New Hampshire Superior Court awarded respondent damages in this civil libel action based on one of petitioner's columns in the Laconia Evening Citizen. Respondent alleged that the column contained defamatory falsehoods concerning his performance as Supervisor of the Belknap Country Recreation Area, a facility owned and operated by Belknap County. In the interval between the trial and the decision of petitioner's appeal by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, we decided New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254. We there held that consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments a State cannot award damages to a public official for defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless the official proves actual maliceĀ—that the falsehood was published with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the award, finding New York Times no bar. 106 N. H. 26, 203 A. 2d 773. We granted certiorari and requested the parties to brief and argue, in addition to the questions presented in the petition for certiorari, the question whether respondent was a "public official" under New York Times and under our decision in Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U. S. 64. 380 U. S. 941.