Judge Takes Aim at Landmark First Amendment Ruling

Javier Manjarres
Javier Manjarres
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February 2, 2022

In a case involving a former Orange Park councilman, a Florida appeals-court judge Wednesday blasted a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the First Amendment. Judge Brad Thomas of the 1st District Court of Appeal wrote an 11-page concurring opinion that took aim at the Supreme Court’s 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan ruling, which, in part, required that public officials prove “actual malice” to prevail in defamation lawsuits.

Thomas cited other critics of the ruling, including current Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, and said New York Times v. Sullivan “was not grounded in the history or text” of the First Amendment.

“The decisions in New York Times and its progeny have established an environment in which anyone who might enter the public arena knows that they may be injured by defamation for which there is effectively no legal recourse,” Brad Thomas wrote.

“In addition, it has led to the destruction of reputations of many who never consented to becoming a so-called ‘public figure.’ No doubt this state of affairs since 1964 has diminished the public good from civic-minded citizens who understandably decline to offer their insights, energy, and wisdom to their fellow citizens, given this legal environment.”

The opinion came as a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by former Orange Park Councilman Roland Mastandrea against Sherri Snow, a resident who he accused of making defamatory statements.

A brief filed by Snow’s attorneys indicated the statements involved a proposed real-estate development in the Clay County town. In a three-page main opinion Wednesday, the appeals court upheld a circuit judge’s decision that there was “no evidence of actual malice.” Brad Thomas concurred with the opinion because he said he was bound by the standard in New York Times v. Sullivan.

 

News Service of Florida

 

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Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres is a nationally renowned award-winning political journalist and Publisher of Floridianpress.com, Hispolitica.com, shark-tank.com, and Texaspolitics.com He enjoys traveling, playing soccer, mixed martial arts, weight-lifting, swimming, and biking. Javier is also a political consultant and has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Follow on Twitter: @JavManjarres Email him at Diversenewmedia@gmail.com

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