Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.
United States Supreme Court
418 U.S. 323 (1974)
In 1968, a Chicago policeman named Nuccio shot and killed a youth named Nelson. State authorities prosecuted Nuccio for the homicide and ultimately obtained a conviction for second degree murder. The Nelson family retained Elmer Gertz (plaintiff), an attorney, to represent them in a civil action against Nuccio. Robert Welch, Inc. (Welch) (defendant) was a publisher of American Opinion, a magazine warning of a nationwide conspiracy to discredit local law enforcement agencies and replace them with a national police force capable of supporting a Communist dictatorship. The magazine ran a story about the Nuccio trial where it accused Gertz of being a Communist and participating in the Communist campaign against local police. The magazine article contained serious factual inaccuracies. Gertz filed suit against Welch in federal district court seeking damages for libel. The district court awarded Gertz $50,000 in damages. The appellate court affirmed but found that Gertz may have needed to prove actual malice to recover under New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Powell, J.)
Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)
Dissent (White, J.)
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