First Amendment Library:
Clyde J. Watts

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Edwin Walker, a retired U.S. general, was reported by the Associated Press to have “[a]ssumed command” of a crowd of anti-desegregation protests at the University of Mississippi and led them in a charge against the U.S. Marshals. The story was published by newspapers subscribing to the Associated Press, and Walker sued for libel and was awarded compensatory damages. This was a companion case to Curtis Pub. Co. v. Butts (1967).

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In a magazine called American Opinion, the John Birch Society accused Gertz, an attorney, of being a “Leninist” and a “Communist-fronter” because he chose to represent clients who were suing a law enforcement officer. Gertz lost his libel suit because the trial judge found that the magazine had not violated the actual malice test for libel, which the Supreme Court had established in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial judge’s ruling.

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