The Supreme Court and the Mass Media: Selected Cases, Summaries, and Analyses

The Supreme Court and the Mass Media: Selected Cases, Summaries, and Analyses

The Supreme Court and the Mass Media: Selected Cases, Summaries, and Analyses

The Supreme Court and the Mass Media: Selected Cases, Summaries, and Analyses


This book presents comprehensive summaries and clearly focused analyses of virtually all U.S. Supreme Court decisions on libel and privacy since 1964. The author goes beyond the obligatory outline and review of each case and presents the full arguments, often verbatim, of the justices. He presents each case in a broad based yet comprehensive summary allowing the reader to review and understand not just isolated and disjunctive points of law, but the case in its entirety. Campbell covers such cases as the landmark Times v. Sullivan (1964) and the provocative and timely flag burning case of Texas v. Johnson (1989).


I shall never forget part of the lecture given at the first meeting of my first graduate class. The instructor inveighed against most modern critics of Ralph Waldo Emerson. What these critics are criticizing, he asserted, is not Emerson but the Emersonians. These are lazy scholars, in his opinion, who simply repeat what others say of Emerson or what the followers of Emerson say. They do not read Emerson for themselves. Later, I heard this evaluation of scholars commenting on Walt Whitman, John Calvin, and many others.

The same can be said of a good portion of the scholarly comments on the United States Supreme Court's rulings on libel, privacy, and the First Amendment. Often scholars will base their statements about these opinions solely on what other scholars have said. It should be said in defense of such academicians that time may not allow them to read all the cases they comment on. Moreover, a long established scholarly tradition rests upon the confidence that critics place in an opinion repeated by revered authorities in their field of study. Still, in the end, there exists no acceptable defense for commenting on an unread case.

Because there are voluminous. collections of court cases, jurists, over time, have developed many ingenious methods for finding the cases relevant to the needs of the researcher. Some are better than others. For the most part, these methods depend on extremely concise summaries of relevant legal concepts or practices. While such methods save much time for someone interested in tracing a narrow legal notion, they are of little help to one who wishes to understand the case as a whole.

In fact, mistaken understandings of cases, not surprisingly, commonly result from cursory summaries because readers naturally, even if wrongly, assume that there is little more of value in a case than what appears in the summary. This book is a rare attempt to present comprehensive summaries including, not only succinct salient points of law, but also full arguments of the justices, all important points, and all dissenting as well as concurring opinions.

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