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Defamation

Because of the importance of the constitutional issues involved, we granted the separate petitions for certiorari of the individual petitioners and of the We reverse the judgment. We hold that the rule of law applied by the Alabama courts is constitutionally deficient for failure to provide the safeguards for freedom of speech and of the press that are required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments in a libel action brought by a public official against critics of his official conduct. We further hold that under the proper safeguards the evidence presented in this case is constitutionally insufficient to support the judgment for respondent..

[The Court here discusses how the First Amendment as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment applies not only to state action but also to individual action, such as this libel suit, and also how First Amendment protections apply, albeit with somewhat lesser force, to commercial speech, such as this advertisement.]

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