US Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman warns the current state of media is ‘a threat to a viable democracy’
A federal judge called for a landmark Supreme Court decision on freedom of the press and libel laws to be overturned in a fiery dissent decrying “bias against the Republican Party,” blasting the near “one-party control” of legacy news media, slamming Silicon Valley’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, and warning that the current state of American media is “a threat to a viable democracy.”
U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a Reagan appointee, launched a broad attack on the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to revisit precedent and the news media in a dissent in Tah v. Global Witness — a defamation case. After arguing against the court majority’s ruling on the merits of the case, Silberman was “prompted to urge the overruling of New York Times v. Sullivan” — a landmark ruling that established what a plaintiff must show to prove a claim of defamation or libel made against a publisher.
Silberman described that ruling, which has made it extraordinarily difficult for an individual to successfully sue the press for false reporting, as a “policy-driven decision masquerading as constitutional law” that “badly constitutionalized an area of law refined over centuries of common law adjudication.”
Acknowledging that the Supreme Court is unlikely to reverse its opinion, he nevertheless said “new considerations have arisen over the last 50 years that make the New York Times decision a threat to American Democracy. It must go.”
New York Times v. Sullivan is a Civil Rights-era decision that established additional First Amendment protections for the press against lawsuits for defamation or libel.