The Supreme Court has declined to overturn the case of a U.S. scientist incorrectly linked to the 2001 Anthrax killings. Steven Hatfill sued The New York Times for libel, but an appeals court dismissed of the case, saying Hatfill was a public figure and hadn’t met the higher burden of proof in the case.
While I sympathize with Hatfill’s plight, the court made the right call. Hatfill’s problem stems from the government, not from The Times. Case in point: Earlier this year the Justice Department agreed to pay Hatfill $5.8 million to settle his case that government officials violated his privacy by talking about the case with the media.
The Times reports its attorney David E. McCraw said this is:
“an important reaffirmation of Times v. Sullivan,” the seminal 1964 Supreme Court decision that placed constitutional limits on libel suits. That decision, Mr. McCraw said, “is designed to encourage the press to report aggressively on matters of public concern.”
We should all be thankful that NY Times v. Sullivan not only exists, but continues to stand the test of time, regardless of changes in administrations and justices.