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Malice

public statement mental act

The intentional commission of a wrongful act, absent justification, with the intent to cause harm to others; conscious violation of the law that injures another individual; a mental state indicating a disposition in disregard of social duty and a tendency toward malfeasance.

In its legal application, the term malice is comprehensive and applies to any legal act that is committed intentionally without JUST CAUSE or excuse. It does not necessarily imply personal hatred or ill feelings, but rather, it focuses on the mental state that is in reckless disregard of the law in general and of the legal rights of others. An example of a malicious act would be committing the TORT of slander by labeling a nondrinker an alcoholic in front of his or her employees.

When applied to the crime of murder, malice is the mental condition that motivates one individual to take the life of another individual without just cause or provocation.

In the context of the FIRST AMENDMENT, public officials and public figures must satisfy a standard that proves actual malice in order to recover for LIBEL or slander. The standard is based upon the seminal case of NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that public officials and public figures cannot be awarded damages unless they prove that the person accused of making the false statement did so with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Demonstrating malice in this context does not require the plaintiff to show that the person uttering the statement showed ill will or hatred toward the public official or public figure.

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