Faculty Publications

A Jurisdictional Perspective on New York Times v. Sullivan

Howard Wasserman


New York Times v. Sullivan is arguably the Supreme Court's most significant First Amendment decision, and, often overlooked in discussions of the case's impact on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, is the fact that it arose from a complex puzzle of constitutional, statutory and judge-made jurisdictional and procedural rules. The case was kept in the Alabama state courts for four years and a half-million-dollar judgment was issued before the Times and its civil rights leader co-defendants could finally avail themselves of the structural protections of federal court and Article III judges.