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Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo


In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Miami Herald's First Amendment freedom of the press rights would be violated if they were forced to print Tornillo's response.

Prior to becoming a candidate for Florida's House of Representatives in 1972, Pat Tornillo was the Executive Director of the Classroom Teacher's Association. On 20 and 29 September 1972, The Miami Herald published two editorials criticizing Tornillo's record as director of the association. Specifically, the paper took issue with a teacher's strike spearheaded by Tornillo in 1968. The first editorial about the strike reprinted in the Court transcripts said in part:

Call it whatever you will, it was an illegal act against the public interest and clearly prohibited by the statutes. We cannot say it would be illegal but certainly it would be inexcusable of the voters if they sent Pat Tornillo to . . . the House of Representatives.

According to Florida Statute 104.38, known as right to reply, the Miami Herald was required to provide Tornillo with equal space in the paper to rebut the criticisms. The editors refused, and Tornillo filed a suit against the Miami Herald seeking damages of more than $5,000. The Florida Circuit Court ruled that the right to reply statute violated the First Amendment guarantee to free press because it dictated what newspaper editors must print. Further, the decision stated that even if the right to reply was found constitutional, Tornillo would not be eligible for damages. The Florida Supreme Court reversed on appeal, finding the right to reply compatible with the First Amendment. The state supreme court however, upheld Tornillo's ineligibility for damages.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo - Significance, Appeal Goes To The U.s. Supreme Court, "free Press" Refers To Press Only