Clarence Thomas signals interest in making it easier to sue media

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(The Hill) — Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday expressed a desire to revisit a landmark 1964 ruling that makes it relatively difficult to bring successful lawsuits against media outlets for defamation.

Thomas’s statement came in response to the court’s decision to turn away an appeal from a Christian nonprofit group who disputed their characterization by the civil rights watchdog group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Coral Ridge Ministries Media sued the SPLC for defamation for listing them as a hate group on their public database, which led to Amazon excluding Coral Ridge as a recipient of charitable contributions from online shoppers.

Thomas dissented from the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the lawsuit, which had been dismissed by lower courts for failing to overcome the decades-old legal standard, established in the landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan decision, that public figures who sue for defamation must not only prove defendants made defamatory statements, but that those statements were made with “actual malice.”

“This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity,’” Thomas wrote.

Updated at 10:05 a.m.



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