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Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton

United States Supreme Court
491 U.S. 657 (1989)


Facts

Daniel Connaughton (plaintiff) ran for Municipal Judge and lost out to incumbent James Dolan. About a month before the election, Dolan’s Director of Court Services was arrested on bribery charges, resulting in a grand jury investigation. During the grand jury investigation, the Journal News (defendant) published a story stating that Connaughton had tried to bribe a grand jury witness into cooperating with the prosecution. The article quoted the witness, Alice Thompson, as verifying the report. Prior to printing the story, the Journal News conducted taped interviews of both Thompson and Connaughton. In the Thompson interview, Thompson was at times hesitant, inaudible, and unresponsive. In the Connaughton interview, Connaughton denied any wrongdoing. In addition, Connaughton had conducted an interview with another grand jury witness, Patsy Stephens, who also denied that Connaughton had done anything wrong. Connaughton sent that interview to the Journal News, but the Journal News never listened to it. Connaughton brought suit against the Journal News for defamation. The district court ruled in favor of Connaughton. The court of appeals affirmed. The Journal News appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

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