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City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc.

453 U.S. 247 (1981)

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City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

453 U.S. 247 (1981)

Facts

Fact Concerts, Inc. (plaintiff) was a concert promoter that contracted with the city of Newport (the City) to organize a jazz concert. The City tried to cancel the jazz concert because it did not want one of the bands to play rock music, even though the band was a well-known jazz band. Fact Concerts sued the City and the individual council members (defendants) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for improper censorship and restriction of free expression and due process. The district court, without objection from the parties, instructed the jury that punitive damages were permitted against the City and the council members in their individual capacities. The jury awarded compensatory damages as well as $200,000 in punitive damages against the City and a total of $75,000 in punitive damages against the individual council members. The City and council members appealed, arguing the punitive damages were improper, and the district court held that the appeal was untimely because the parties did not object to the jury instructions. Despite this procedural flaw, the district court considered the parties’ substantive legal arguments and held that the parties could be liable for punitive damages. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether punitive damages were permitted against the municipality or the individual government officials.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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