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Hutchinson v. Proxmire

United States Supreme Court
443 U.S. 111 (1979)


Hutchinson (plaintiff), a behavioral scientist, sued Proxmire (defendant), a United States senator, for defamation because Proxmire gave Hutchinson’s federal sponsors a “Golden Fleece” award in 1975. The award was given to federal agencies that sponsored work that Proxmire viewed as a waste of tax dollars. Proxmire sent 100,000 newsletters, issued a press release, made TV and radio appearances, made phone calls, and spoke on the Senate floor about why he thought Hutchinson’s work was nonsense. The court of appeals held that the Speech or Debate Clause protected Proxmire’s statements in the newsletters and press release, and that the First Amendment protected Proxmire’s phone calls and TV and radio appearances.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Stewart, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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