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First Amendment Library:
Edward Bennett Williams


On September 10, 1960, three days before the New Hampshire Democratic Party's primary election of candidates for the United States Senate, the Concord Monitor, a daily newspaper in Concord, New Hampshire, published a syndicated "D. C. Merry-Go-Round" column discussing the forthcoming election. The column spoke of political maneuvering in the primary campaign, referred to the criminal records of several of the candidates, and characterized Alphonse Roy, one of the candidates, as a "former small-time bootlegger."[1] Roy was not *267 elected in the primary, and he subsequently sued the Monitor Patriot Co. and the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), the distributor of the column, for libel.


This case presents the question whether the District Court for the District of Columbia should release to respondents certain tapes admitted into evidence at the trial of petitioner's former advisers. Respondents wish to copy the tapes for broadcasting and sale to the public. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the District Court's refusal to permit immediate copying of the tapes was an abuse of discretion. United States v. Mitchell, 179 U. S. App. D. C. 293, 551 F. 2d 1252 (1976). We granted certiorari, 430 U. S. 944 (1977), and for the reasons that follow, we reverse.