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Decided together with Abernathy v. Sullivan, this case concerns a full-page ad in the New York Times which alleged that the arrest of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for perjury in Alabama was part of a campaign to destroy King's efforts to integrate public facilities and encourage blacks to vote. L. B. Sullivan, the Montgomery city commissioner, filed a libel action against the newspaper and four black ministers who were listed as endorsers of the ad, claiming that the allegations against the Montgomery police defamed him personally. Under Alabama law, Sullivan did not have to prove that he had been harmed; and a defense claiming that the ad was truthful was unavailable since the ad contained factual errors. Sullivan won a $500,000 judgment.

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  • 1 decade ago
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    Martin Luther King was arrested by Montgomery, Alabama police - for supposedly lying under oath. An ad was placed in The New York Times newspaper criticizing the Montgomery police and accusing them of making up a false charge against Reverend King - to stop his attempts to allow blacks free access to public buildings and to get more blacks to vote. The ad was supported by 4 black ministers.

    The Montegomery city commissioner sued the newspaper and the ministers - saying that the ad had defamed him personally (through the allegation made against the police). He won the lawsuit (and $500,00) because Alabama law did not require that he prove he had been harmed.

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