Ocala Star-Banner Company v. Damron
Petitioner newspaper published a false story that respondent, then a mayor and a candidate for county tax assessor, had been charged with perjury in federal court, and respondent sued for libel. The judge instructed the jury that the charge was libelous per se and that respondent could recover damages without showing malice. The jury awarded compensatory damages. The judge denied the newspaper's motion for a new trial on the basis of the 'actual malice' test of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686, on the ground that the article did not refer to respondent's official conduct. The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the New York Times rule did not aply. Held: A charge of criminal conduct against a public official or a candidate for public office, no matter how remote in time or place, is always 'relevant to his fitness for office' for purposes of applying the New York Times rule of knowing falsehood or reckless disregard of the truth. Monitor Patriot Co. v. Roy, 401 U.S. 265, 91 S.Ct. 621, 28 L.Ed.2d 35. Pp. 299-301.
221 So.2d 459, reversed and remanded.
Harold B. Wahl, Jacksonville, Fla., for petitioners.
Wallace Dunn, Ocala, Fla., for respondent.
Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.