Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974)

2012-08-02 10:27:06

In 1972, the Miami Herald printed two editorials that were critical of Pat Tornillo’s candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives. Tornillo wanted to invoke his ‘‘right to reply’’ pursuant to Florida Statute Section 104.38, which required a newspaper to give equal space free of charge to a candidate for political office when a newspaper publishes criticism about the candidate.

The Dade County Circuit Court held the statute unconstitutional because it infringed on the freedom of the press, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed. Chief Justice Burger delivered a unanimous decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision and articulated four reasons why the ‘‘right to reply’’ statute violated the First Amendment’s free press guarantee. First, the statute was effectively telling a newspaper what it must publish even if ‘‘reason’’ says that it should not be published. Second, by forcing a newspaper to publish certain information, the statute worked the same as a statute that restricts what a newspaper can publish. Third, the statute was exacting a penalty against the newspaper by forcing the paper to spend money and take up space in the paper. Fourth, the statute intruded on an editor’s decision about what material should go into a newspaper and chilled coverage of controversial issues.

This decision has effectively prevented states from intruding on a newspaper’s decision about what to publish and has curtailed any right of access to newspapers.


References and Further Reading

  • Cook, Timothy E., ed. Freeing the Presses: The First Amendment in Action. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
  • Garry, Patrick M. Scrambling for Protection. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Hayes, John, The Right to Reply: A Conflict of Fundamental Rights, Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 37 (2004): 551–583.
  • Tedford, Thomas L., and Dale A. Herbeck. Freedom of Speech in the United States, 4th ed. State College, PA: Strata Publishing, Inc., 2001.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94 (1973)
  • Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974)
  • Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214 (1966)
  • New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)
  • Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission, 395 U.S. 367 (1969)

See also Anonymity and Free Speech; Anonymity in Online Communication; Application of First Amendment to States; Balancing Approach to Free Speech; Broadcast Regulation; Cable Television Regulation; Compelling State Interest; Freedom of the Press: Modern Period (1917–Present); Freedom of Speech and Press: Nineteenth Century