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Philadelphia Newspapers v. Hepps

United States Supreme Court
475 U.S. 767 (1986)


Facts

Philadelphia Newspapers (newspaper) (defendant) published five stories about Hepps (plaintiff) and the corporation of which he was a principal stockholder. The stories claimed Hepps had links to organized crime and used those links to influence state administrative and legislative processes. Hepps brought suit against the newspaper for defamation. At trial, the newspaper relied on Pennsylvania’s “shield law” which provides that a media reporter is not required to disclose any sources of information in any legal proceeding or investigation. The trial judge held Hepps could not recover damages without proving falsity of the newspaper stories, but declined to answer whether an inference of falsity could be drawn from the newspaper’s reliance on the shield law. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held Hepps could recover only by proving fault by the newspaper, not falsity. Additionally, it held that to place the burden of showing truth on the newspaper was not unconstitutional. The case was remanded for a new trial. The United States Supreme Court noted probable jurisdiction over the case.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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Concurrence (Brennan, J.)

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Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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