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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Anthony Herbert was a retired Army officer who served in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, he accused superior officers of covering up atrocities that American troops had committed. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) produced and broadcast a documentary of the petitioner's story. Herbert sued for libel arguing that the program falsely and maliciously portrayed his character, causing him financial loss. In order to prove libel under the "actual malice" standard, Herbert's attorneys deposed Lando as well as the producer and the editor of the documentary, attempting to deduce the editorial decisions that were made during the production of the program.


In an accusation of libel, do the First and Fourteenth Amendments protect members of the press from inquiries into their thoughts, opinions, and conclusions that go into the editorial process?

Decision: 6 votes for Herbert, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and held that the privilege not to answer editorial inquiries is not absolute. Justice White argued that shielding editorial decision-making from inquiry would "substantially enhance the burden of proving actual malice," a burden which was already substantial in the Court's view. White was confident that investigations into this process for falsehood or libelous reporting would not lead to self-censorship of stories that are documented and true; "only reckless error will be discouraged," which would not threaten the constitutionally protected freedom of the press.

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HERBERT v. LANDO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1105>.
HERBERT v. LANDO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1105 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"HERBERT v. LANDO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1105.