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Beckley Newspapers v. Hanks, 389 U.S. 81 (1967)

Beckley Newspapers v. Hanks

No. 467

Decided November 6, 1967

389 U.S. 81


Respondent brought this action in a West Virginia circuit court alleging that. three editorials in petitioner's newspaper criticizing his official conduct as court clerk had libeled him. The jury had been instructed in part that it could find for respondent if it were shown that petitioner had published the editorials "with bad or corrupt motive," or "from personal spite, ill-will or a desire to injure plaintiff." Respondent contended that there was sufficient proof for the jury to find that petitioner published the statements with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not. The jury awarded respondent damages and the State Supreme Court of Appeals denied appellate review.

Held: The Court's independent examination of the whole record does not reveal that any failure of petitioner to make a prior investigation constituted proof sufficient to present a jury question whether the statements were published with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not. Cf. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 376 U. S. 287-288 (1964).

Certiorari granted; reversed and remanded.

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