The US Supreme Court has recognized limits to defamation claims, and California courts have followed that precedent, recognizing only limited public figures. These cases examine the matter at hand, evaluating whether the facts are truly matters of public controversy and whether the plaintiff voluntarily sought to influence the resolution of the controversy. In addition, Carlisle and Kapellas have found that relatives of public figures are limited public figures under Gertz. Thus, if your loved one has been defamed, you may have a defamation claim. car wreck lawyers in houston
The case Menkowitz v. Peerless Publications, a defamation case involving the media defendant, involved a public figure and an issue of public interest. The court reversed the judgment for the plaintiff, a board-certified surgeon. In that case, Peerless Publications published false stories that threatened the plaintiff for bad behavior, and the plaintiff's license was revoked. In Menkowitz, the plaintiff's suit against the newspaper alleged that the magazine threatened him and the press rescinded his license.
Defamation of a public figure is an area where a judge must determine whether the claimant had actual malice. If they were not, then a private person's statements are still protected by the First Amendment. In addition to weighing the public interest, defamation of a public figure requires proof of actual malice, which may require proof of actual intent. While a public figure may have a protected status under the First Amendment, a private person cannot be a public figure simply because they have not received permission to make the statements.
Gertz clarified the standards for defamation of a public figure. Prior to this landmark case, relatives of "public figures" were generally considered public figures. The case clarified the distinction between "general" and "limited" public figures and sharply curtailed the cases where a person's personal relationship with a "public figure" was involved. The result was a narrower standard for defamation of a public figure.
Gertz further restricted the constitutional rights of public figures. In most cases, defamation of a public figure is presumed to have a higher risk of being defamed than that of a private citizen. Furthermore, a public figure's reputation is subject to more scrutiny, a fact that makes it more difficult for the defendant to counteract a false statement. Gertz also affected most defamation cases, and made it more difficult to sue public figures.
Defamation of a public figure is a rare case in which the plaintiff prevails. In general, public figures rarely win these suits, and even when they do, they must prove malice to obtain damages. The United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech, and courts must balance this against the public interest in preserving the public's right to express their opinions. The case against Jesse Ventura and Chris Kyle illustrates the limits of defamation against the rights of public figures.