Duquesne Law Review


Twelve years ago the Supreme Court granted states substantial discretion to determine key issues in libel. While new state standards had to be squared with previous Supreme Court rulings, states were granted discretion to decide such matters as the standard of liability in cases involving private person plaintiffs, the degree of irresponsible conduct that constitutes negligence, and whether a plaintiff is a private person or a public figure. This article is a case study of how Pennsylvania has reacted to Supreme Court libel decisions. In this era of legal decentralization, state courts will increasingly have the final say on how the first amendment is to be interpreted. Pennsylvania has often taken a restrictive view of the first amendment claims of media defendants. The author concludes that uncontrolled state autonomy in this key area will lead to state-by-state determination of rights under the first amendment and a lessening of its vitality.

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