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Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. v. Hepps

Significance, Freedom To Defame, Chilling Effect, Private Citizens And Public Figures, Impact, Shield Laws


Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc., et al.


Maurice S. Hepps, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That, due to First Amendment freedom of the press protections, a private individual in cases of public interest is responsible to prove accusations of criminal activity printed by a newspaper were false to win a defamation award.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

David H. Marion

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Ronald H. Surkin

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Sandra Day O'Connor (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

Warren E. Burger, William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

21 April 1986


Reversed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and found that for a private individual to establish defamation by the press they are required to prove untruthfulness of the news articles.

Related Cases

  • NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963).
  • New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
  • Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75 (1966).
  • Time, Inc. v. Hill, 385 U.S. 374 (1967).
  • Gertz v. Welch, 418 U.S. 323 (1974).
  • Hustler Magazine Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988).


West's Encyclopedia of American Law, Vol 2. New York: West Publishing, 1998.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988