We hope you can join us, online, for our Constitution Day event on September 14th, 2023, at 3 p.m. EDT. University at Buffalo School of Law Professor Samantha Barbas will discuss her book, Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times v. Sullivan.
Actual Malice tells the full story of New York Times v. Sullivan, the case that grew out of segregationists’ attempts to quash reporting on the civil rights movement. In its landmark 1964 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that a public official must prove “actual malice” or reckless disregard of the truth to win a libel lawsuit, providing critical protections for free speech and freedom of the press.
Drawing on previously unexplored sources, including the archives of the New York Times Company and civil rights leaders, Samantha Barbas tracks the saga behind one of the most important First Amendment rulings in history. She situates the case within the turbulent 1960s and the history of the press, alongside striking portraits of the lawyers, officials, judges, activists, editors, and journalists who brought and defended the case.
Samantha Barbas is a professor of law at the University at Buffalo School of Law, specializing in legal history, First Amendment law, and mass communications law. She holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She is the author of seven books: Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times v. Sullivan (the University of California Press, 2023); The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade (University of Chicago Press, 2021); Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine (Chicago Review Press, 2018); Newsworthy: The Supreme Court Battle Over Privacy and Press Freedom (Stanford University Press, 2017); Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America (Stanford University Press, 2015); The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons (University of California Press, 2005); and Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001). Her books have been featured in The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN. In 2020, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award for Actual Malice.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.