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Gertz v. Welch

United States Supreme Court
418 U.S. 323 (1974)


Facts

Nuccio, a Chicago policeman, shot and killed a youth named Nelson. Nuccio was convicted for second degree murder. The Nelson family retained Elmer Gertz (plaintiff), an attorney, to represent them in a civil action against Nuccio. Welch (defendant) was a publisher of American Opinion, a magazine that warned 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 that 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 court of appeals 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

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Powell, J.)

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Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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Dissent (White, J.)

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