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Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts

Two Cases Of Libel?, Impact


Curtis Publishing Company


Wally Butts

Petitioner's Claim

That the ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) allowing public officials to sue for libel only if they can prove actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth should be extended to public figures as well.

Chief Lawyers for Petitioner

Herbert Wechsler, William Rogers

Chief Lawyers for Respondent

Allen Lockerman, Clyde J. Watts

Justices for the Court

Tom C. Clark, Abe Fortas, John Marshall Harlan II (writing for the Court), Earl Warren

Justices Dissenting

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Byron R. White


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

12 June 1967


This ruling is based on two cases Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts and Associated Press v. Walker. In Curtis, the Court ruled that Butts was defamed and the libel judgment was upheld. In Associated Press v. Walker the court determined that under New York Times v. Sullivan Walker was not libeled.


The New York Times v. Sullivan ruling of "actual knowledge or reckless disregard for the truth" test for public officials to prove defamation was extended to public figures. The Court agreed that both Butts and Walker were public figures; however, only Butts's case under the extension of the New York Times ruling was actually defamation.

Related Cases

  • New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
  • Rosenbloom v. Metromedia, 403 U.S. 29 (1971).
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323 (1974).
  • Time, Inc. v. Firestone, 424 U.S. 448 (1976).
  • Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111 (1979).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt. Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1997.
  • Gunther, Gerald, and Kathleen Sullivan. Constitutional Law 13th ed. New York: The Foundation Press Inc., 1997.
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972