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Covington Teen’s Libel Suit Follows Justice Thomas’ Questioning of Libel Precedent

A day after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signaled it might be time to review a landmark ruling on libel law, President Donald Trump cheered the libel lawsuit of a Covington, Kentucky, high school student against The Washington Post.

Although Trump has repeatedly insisted that Congress change existing libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations, the 1964 unanimous Supreme Court ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan determined that public figures must prove a false report was made with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard” of the truth.

Thomas, on Tuesday, in a concurring opinion in an unrelated case questioned the libel precedent, asserting that the First and 14th Amendments “did not require public figures to satisfy any kind of heightened liability standard as a condition of recovering damages.”

‘Limited-Purpose Public Figure’

It’s questionable whether such a standard is applicable to the case of Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky high school student whose parents are suing the Post for $250 million, since he was unknown to most of the public before the Post and other media outlets reported on a video clip in which he initially appeared to be bullying a Native American activist.

However, in the matter Thomas was writing about, the plaintiff—Kathrine McKee, suing a lawyer for Bill Cosby—was considered a “limited-purpose public figure.” In short, that would be a normally private figure who puts himself or herself into the public eye.

Read the full story from The Daily Signal

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