HUSTLER MAGAZINE v. FALWELL

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
86-1278
Petitioner 
Hustler Magazine
Respondent 
Falwell
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A lead story in the November 1983 issue of Hustler Magazine featured a "parody" of an advertisement, modeled after an actual ad campaign, claiming that Falwell, a Fundamentalist minister and political leader, had a drunken incestuous relationship with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued to recover damages for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Falwell won a jury verdict on the emotional distress claim and was awarded a total of $150,000 in damages. Hustler Magazine appealed.

Question 

Does the First Amendment's freedom of speech protection extend to the making of patently offensive statements about public figures, resulting perhaps in their suffering emotional distress?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Hustler Magazine, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes. In a unanimous opinion the Court held that public figures, such as Jerry Falwell, may not recover for the intentional infliction of emotional distress without showing that the offending publication contained a false statement of fact which was made with "actual malice." The Court added that the interest of protecting free speech, under the First Amendment, surpassed the state's interest in protecting public figures from patently offensive speech, so long as such speech could not reasonably be construed to state actual facts about its subject.

Cite this Page
HUSTLER MAGAZINE v. FALWELL. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 22 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_1278>.
HUSTLER MAGAZINE v. FALWELL, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_1278 (last visited October 22, 2014).
"HUSTLER MAGAZINE v. FALWELL," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_1278.