Thomas again urges Supreme Court to reconsider landmark 'malice' standard in defamation cases

Jurist has long argued for revisiting standard

Updated: June 28, 2022 - 3:11pm

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this week urged the Court to reconsider a long-held judicial defamation standard, a suggestion the justice has made multiple times in recent years. 

Thomas has previously argued that the Court should revisit the landmark 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, one which held that public officials must prove that news organizations acted with "actual malice" when publishing false or defamatory material.

That standard has established a significant hurdle that public figures must jump over before successfully bringing a libel lawsuit against media outlets.

Thomas made a similar plea this week in a dissent for Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. vs. Southern Poverty Law Center. The Court declined to hear that case, which challenged the "actual malice" standard that has been in place for nearly 60 years. 

In his brief dissent from the Court's decision in Coral Ridge, Thomas called the "actual malice" standard "almost impossible" to substantiate. 

“I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the ‘actual malice’ standard,” Thomas said in the dissent. “This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity'.”