Prosecuting a Defamation Case


"Good name in man and woman, dear my Lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; "'twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed." -Iago, Act I, Scene 3, Othello

Shakespeare's Iago valued his reputation more than gold. Yet we live in a time where powerful media corporations coin gold by trashing the good names of private citizens. Defamation law provides the only defense.

Still, defamation as a practical tort remedy against falsehood in the media is only recently experiencing resurgence after many years of uncertain decline. Actions defending reputation were seriously compromised in 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed. 686 (1964), that the First Amendment limits a state's authority to award damages for libel.

In the wake of that constitutional determination, plaintiffs seeking to recover for defamation shouldered a heavy burden.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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