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Old Dominion Branch No. 496, National Association of Letter Carriers v. Austin

418 U.S. 264 (1974)

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Old Dominion Branch No. 496, National Association of Letter Carriers v. Austin

United States Supreme Court

418 U.S. 264 (1974)

Facts

Old Dominion Branch No. 496 (Branch) (defendant), a local union affiliated with the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (AFL-CIO) (defendant), published a list of scabs, or postal workers who had not joined the union, as part of a monthly newsletter. Henry Austin (plaintiff), a postal worker whose name appeared on the list, called Branch’s president and said that Austin did not know what a scab was but that he would sue if he was referred to as a scab again. The next Branch newsletter included not only the list, complete with Austin’s name, but also a piece of literature that defined “scab” in extremely insulting terms, including “traitor.” Austin and two other postal workers, L. D. Brown (plaintiff) and Roy Ziegengeist (plaintiff), brought suit for libel. The trial court and the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of Austin, Brown, and Ziegengeist. Branch and AFL-CIO appealed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Concurrence (Douglas, J.)

Dissent (Powell, J.)

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