Howard v. Lyons, No. 57

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHARLAN
Citation360 U.S. 593,3 L.Ed.2d 1454,79 S.Ct. 1331
Decision Date29 June 1959
Docket NumberNo. 57
PartiesW. E. HOWARD, Jr., Petitioner, v. Kenneth T. LYONS and Joseph S. McAteer. Re

360 U.S. 593
79 S.Ct. 1331
3 L.Ed.2d 1454
W. E. HOWARD, Jr., Petitioner,

v.

Kenneth T. LYONS and Joseph S. McAteer.

No. 57.
Reargued April 20, 21, 1959.
Decided June 29, 1959.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 12, 1959.

See 80 S.Ct. 40.

Mr. Daniel M. Friedman, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Clause L. Dawson, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Page 594

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a companion case to Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564, 79 S.Ct. 1335. Petitioner Howard in 1955 was a Captain in the United States Navy and Commander of the Boston Naval Shipyard. Respondent Lyons was National Commander of the Federal Employees Veterans Association, Inc., and respondent McAteer a local officer of that Association. Both respondents were at all material times civilian employees at the Boston Naval Shipyard, and for several years before September 8, 1955, the Association was recognized by the shipyard as an employees' representative group. On that date petitioner withdrew official recognition of the Association—an action which is not here challenged.

Respondents brought suit in the Massachusetts District Court, invoking diversity jurisdiction, and making the following allegations: that on September 8, 1955, petitioner circulated a statement defaming them; that the statement purported to be an official memorandum to the Chief of the Bureau of Ships and the Chief of Navy Industrial Relations, but was released by petitioner 'outside of his official duties' to various newspapers and wire services and to the members of the Massachusetts delegation in the Congress of the United States; that in circulating the statement petitioner acted 'maliciously, wilfully, wickedly, recklessly and falsely and with malice aforesight (sic)'; and that the statement was intended to and did injure the reputation of respondents.

A copy of the statement complained of was filed with the complaint. It is in the form of an official report directed to the Chief of the Bureau of Ships and the Chief of Industrial Relations of the Department of the Navy, reciting petitioner's dissatisfaction with the activities

Page 595

of the Federal Employees Veterans Association at the shipyard and announcing his intention to withdraw the recognition previously accorded it.1

Petitioner answered, stating that the statement complained of was in fact an official communication, and that in sending copies of it to the Massachusetts congressional delegation he was acting within the scope of his duties and pursuant to Department of the Navy policy; and denying that outside of his official duties he had released copies of the communication to the newspapers. He thereupon moved for summary judgment, attaching to the motion his own affidavit essentially repeating the statements from his answer above summarized, and an affidavit from the Commandant of the First Naval District. That affidavit stated that the Commandant was petitioner's commanding officer; that the making of reports to the Bureau of Ships relative to any significant personnel action at the shipyard was one of petitioner's official duties; that also among those duties was the furnishing of copies of such

Page 596

reports to the Massachusetts congressional delegation; and that the dissemination of the report of September 8, 1955, to the newspapers had been made through official channels and approved by the acting Commandant of the First Naval District.

The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioner, holding that the uncontradicted affidavits conclusively showed that the statement complained of was published by petitioner 'in the discharge of his official duties and in relation to matters committed to him for determination,' and that it was therefore absolutely privileged. On respondents' appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the sending of the official report to petitioner's superior officers was protected by an absolute privilege, and noted that reliance on the dissemination to the newspapers had been abandoned by respondents on appeal in the face of petitioner's sworn statement that he had not been responsible for that publication. As to the publication to the Massachusetts congressional delegation, however, the court, one judge dissenting, refused to allow more than a qualified privilege, although recognizing that 'it is true that these members of Congress did have an official interest in being kept advised of important developments in labor relations at the Boston Naval...

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152 practice notes
  • Ajay Nutrition Foods, Inc. v. Food & Drug Administration, Civ. A. No. 328-73.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • April 5, 1974
    ...the commander of a naval shipyard to restrain the commander from issuing statements critical of certain employees, Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 597, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959); where an investigator for a congressional committee was sued for abuse of process, Wheeldin v. Wheeler......
  • Chandler v. O'BRYAN, No. 354-70.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • September 9, 1971
    ...a federal question, thus conveying jurisdiction under § 1331. It is true that the immunity issue is a federal question, Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 597, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959), but it is in the nature of a federal defense to a suit instituted under state law. As such, it is......
  • Gonzalez v. Leonard, Civil Action No. H76-350.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 28, 1980
    ...unredressed, but we think that price a necessary one to pay for the greater good." Id. at 576, 79 S.Ct. at 1342. See also Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959) (under Barr, the commanding officer of the Boston Naval Shipyard had an absolute privilege, against a......
  • Smith v. Lockheed Propulsion Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 17, 1967
    ...whether the contractor shares the immunity of the United States probably presents a federal question. (cf. Howard v. Lyons, (1959) 360 U.S. 593, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454; Garner v. Rathburn, (10 Cir., 1965) 346 F.2d 55). Our research has failed to reveal any federal cases on this issue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
152 cases
  • Ajay Nutrition Foods, Inc. v. Food & Drug Administration, Civ. A. No. 328-73.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • April 5, 1974
    ...the commander of a naval shipyard to restrain the commander from issuing statements critical of certain employees, Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 597, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959); where an investigator for a congressional committee was sued for abuse of process, Wheeldin v. Wheeler......
  • Chandler v. O'BRYAN, No. 354-70.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • September 9, 1971
    ...a federal question, thus conveying jurisdiction under § 1331. It is true that the immunity issue is a federal question, Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 597, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959), but it is in the nature of a federal defense to a suit instituted under state law. As such, it is......
  • Gonzalez v. Leonard, Civil Action No. H76-350.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 28, 1980
    ...unredressed, but we think that price a necessary one to pay for the greater good." Id. at 576, 79 S.Ct. at 1342. See also Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454 (1959) (under Barr, the commanding officer of the Boston Naval Shipyard had an absolute privilege, against a......
  • Smith v. Lockheed Propulsion Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 17, 1967
    ...whether the contractor shares the immunity of the United States probably presents a federal question. (cf. Howard v. Lyons, (1959) 360 U.S. 593, 79 S.Ct. 1331, 3 L.Ed.2d 1454; Garner v. Rathburn, (10 Cir., 1965) 346 F.2d 55). Our research has failed to reveal any federal cases on this issue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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