In a shocking opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with President Trump.
Both the president and Justice Thomas believe that a case settled in 1964 take The First Amendment too far in terms of protecting publishers from libel.
The decision makes it extremely tough for a public figure to sue a publication like The New York Times for libel, Newsweek reported.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a court decision Tuesday that there should be a reconsideration of a landmark Supreme Court case that set the standard for libel for public figures.
In a concurrence to decline reviewing the case Kathrine McKee v. William Cosby, Thomas indicated that he felt the decision in the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan was wrong. The McKee case involving Bill Cosby centered on the question of whether McKee was a public figure after she made an accusation of sexual assault against Cosby.
Thomas suggested that the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan—that public figures must prove “actual malice,” meaning intent to harm, to prove libel—was wrong. “New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas wrote, later adding, “If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we.”
“We did not begin meddling in this area until 1964, nearly 175 years after the First Amendment was ratified,” he said.
“The States are perfectly capable of striking an acceptable balance between encouraging robust public discourse and providing a meaningful remedy for reputational harm,” Justice Thomas said.
“We should reconsider our jurisprudence in this area,” he said in his decision.
If Justice Thomas and President trump have their way it would alter the way courts read The First Amendment.
“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” President Trump said at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas on Feb. 26, 2016.
He reiterated his call for a change to the libel laws in a tweet on March 30, 2017.
“The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?” he said.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
The best justice: https://t.co/qYB5R9Sj4f
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) February 19, 2019
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for reconsideration of a landmark First Amendment precedent, criticizing the 1964 decision that the Constitution creates a higher barrier for public figures to claim libel. https://t.co/iajoH5R4Wl
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 19, 2019