October 27, 2013

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby - 477 U.S. 242 (1986)

FACTS: Liberty Lobby filed a libel suit against Andersen who worked for "The Investigator."  Liberty claimed that 28 statements and 2 illustrations in some articles that appeared in the "Investigator" were false and derogatory.

HISTORY: First, New York Times held that a libel suit brought by a public official, the 1st Amendment requires the P to show that in publishing the defamatory statement the D acted with actual malice and that malice must be shown with convincing clarity.

Petitioners are asserting that summary judgment is proper b/c respondents must meet the standard in New York.,  Respondents are arguing that the actual issue of malice was asserted b/c of inaccuracies in the stories.

Here, the District Court granted the summary judgment holding that the respondents were limited-purpose public figures and New York therefore applied.  The Court of Appeals affirmed 21 of the statements and reversed on 9.

ISSUE: Whether the clear and convincing evidence requirement must be considered by a court ruling on a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 in a case to which New York Times applies?

HOLDING: Yes

RATIONALE:

Mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment - the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.

Big question the judge must ask himself is whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the P is entitled to a verdict.

The "clear and convincing standard of proof" should be taken into account.

This case would be whether the reasonable juror could find actual malice with convincing clarity.

DISSENT: The fact finder should have the ultimate say (eroding the constitutionally enshrined into the role of the juror)

DISPOSITION: Vacated and remanded.