June 28, 2022

JUSTICE THOMAS: When oh when will we finally revisit Sullivan?

Today, however, a denial of cert in a defamation case brought a brief but pointed dissent from Thomas. In Coral Ridge v Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a Christian ministry sued over the SPLC designation of their organization as a “hate group,” which denied them access to donations through Amazon’s charitable designation program, AmazonSmile. The SPLC rebutted the lawsuit on two main points: first, their designation is a First Amendment-protected expression of opinion, and two, Coral Ridge is a “public” entity under the NYT v Sullivan precedent. Coral Ridge conceded the latter in this case but still claimed it could meet the “actual malice” standard.

The court declined to take up the case, but Thomas disagreed, wanting an opportunity to finally address Sullivan.

For what the Court could do short of overturning Sullivan, see my Rethinking Libel for the Twenty-First Century.

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