Judge Thomas wants the Supreme Court to rethink decades of libel protection.
Changing the standard for defamation could make it easier for public figures to sue media organizations.
His dissent came when the Court decided not to take up a defamation case.
Judge Clarence Thomas on Monday urged the Supreme Court to seek decades of libel protections instituted by the historic New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, to be reconsidered – arguing that the court should reconsider the standards that make it more difficult for public figures to sue media organizations.
Thomas dissenting of the Court’s decision not to take a defamation lawsuit between a Christian media group formerly known as Coral Ridge Ministries Media — now D. James Kennedy Ministries — and the Southern Poverty Law Center, formerly assigned Coral Ridge as an ‘anti-LGBT hate group’.
“I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the ‘true malice’ standard,” Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion. “This case is one of many showing how the New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and advocacy groups ‘to cast false accusations’ almost with impunity for public figures.”
Thomas said Coral Ridge’s classification lumped it together with groups like the “Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis” and put the group on an “interactive, online ‘hate map’.”
Coral Ridge sued the SPLC in 2017, alleging that it was defamed by the SPLC’s designation because Amazon would not allow it to participate in a donation program. The suit was dismissed, and later a federal appeals court one-sided with the resignation in 2021, saying Coral Ridge could not allege that SPLC had acted with “genuine malice”.
Under the precedent of the 1964 landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivanpublic figures charged with defamation must prove that the defendant acted with “genuine malice” and made a reckless decision.
Coral Ridge considered itself a “public figure,” Thomas said, forcing it to prove multiple elements to disprove SPLC’s argument that it designated the group with First Amendment protections.
Changing the standard for defamation would make it easier for public figures to sue news and media organizations for negative reporting.
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