Time, Incorporated v. Pape

Decision Date24 February 1971
Docket NumberNo. 109,109
Citation91 S.Ct. 633,401 U.S. 279,28 L.Ed.2d 45
PartiesTIME, INCORPORATED, Petitioner, v. Frank PAPE
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 401 U.S. 1015, 91 S.Ct. 1248.


In a discussion of 'police brutality and related private violence' in its 1961 Report, the Civil Rights Commission mentioned the case of Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492, and listed some of the allegations of Monroe's civil rights complaint filed against certain Chicago policemen headed by Deputy Chief of Detectives Pape. In an article about the Report, Time magazine quoted from a summary of the complaint, without indicating that the charges were Monroe's and not the independent findings of the Commission. Pape sued the petitioner publisher for libel. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's grant of Time's motion for summary judgment, holding that there had to be a trial on the question of whether Time's failure to make clear that it was reporting no more than allegations showed 'actual malice' (knowledge that the information was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not) under the rule of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686. At the trial the author of the article and the researcher admitted awareness that the wording of the Report had been significantly altered but insisted that its real meaning had not been changed. The District Court granted Time's motion for a directed verdict at the close of the evidence, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the jury should determine whether the omission of the word 'alleged' showed 'actual malice.' Both courts agreed that Pape was a 'public official' and that the article concerned his 'official conduct.' Held: In the circumstances of this case the magazine did not engage in a 'falsification' sufficient in itself to sustain a jury finding of 'actual malice.' Pp. 284—292.

(a) The magazine's omission of the word 'alleged' amounted to the adoption of one of several rational interpretations of a document bristling with ambiguities, and while that choice might reflect a misconception, it was not enough to create a jury issue of 'malice' under the rule of New York Times, supra, as it would impose a stricter standard of liability on errors of interpretation or judgment than on errors of historic fact. P. 290.

(b) This holding is confined to the specific facts of this case, and nothing herein is to be understood as making the word 'alleged' a superfluity in published reports of information damaging to reputation. P. 292.

419 F.2d 980, reversed and remanded.

Don H. Reuben, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Patrick W. Dunne, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

In November 1961, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued the fifth volume of its Report for that year, a document entitled Justice. A part of Justice was devoted to a study of 'police brutality and related private violence,' and contained the following paragraph:

'Search, seizure, and violence: Chicago, 1958.—The Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Monroe v. Pape (365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492) on February 20, 1961. Although this decision did not finally dispose of the case, it did permit the plaintiff to sue several Chicago police officers for violation of the Federal Civil Rights Acts on the basis of a complaint which alleged that:

'* * * (O)n October 29, 1958, at 5:45 a.m., thirteen Chicago police officers led by Deputy Chief of De- tectives Pape, broke through two doors of the Monroe apartment, woke the Monroe couple with flashlights, and forced them at gunpoint to leave their bed and stand naked in the center of the living room; that the officers roused the six Monroe children and herded them into the living room; that Detective Pape struck Mr. Monroe several times with his flashlight, calling him 'nigger' and 'black boy'; that another officer pushed Mrs. Monroe; that other officers hit and kicked several of the children and pushed them to the floor; that the police ransacked every room, throwing clothing from closets to the floor, dumping drawers, ripping mattress covers; that Mr. Monroe was then taken to the police station and detained on 'open' charges for ten hours, during which time he was interrogated about a murder and exhibited in lineups; that he was not brought before a magistrate, although numerous magistrate's courts were accessible; that he was not advised of his procedural rights; that he was not permitted to call his family or an attorney; that he was subsequently released without criminal charges having been filed against him.' Justice 20—21.

A week later, Time, a weekly news magazine, carried a report of the Commission's new publication. The Time article began:

'The new paperback book has 307 pages and the simple title Justice. It is the last of five volumes in the second report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, first created by Congress in 1957. Justice carries a chilling text about police brutality in both the South and the North—and it stands as a grave indictment, since its facts were carefully investigated by field agents and it was signed by all six of the noted educators who comprise the commission.'

There followed a description, with numerous direct quotations, of one of the incidents described in Justice, and then the following account of the Monroe incident:

'Shifting to the North, the report cites Chicago police treatment of Negro James Monroe and his family, who were awakened in their West Side apartment at 5:45 a.m. by 13 police officers, ostensibly investigating a murder. The police, says Justice, 'broke through two doors, woke the Monroe couple with flashlights * * *."

The Time article went on to quote at length from the summary of the Monroe complaint, without indicating in any way that the charges were those made by Monroe rather than independent findings of the Commission.

Pape sued Time for libel in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, there being deversity of citizenship. Time moved to dismiss the suit on the ground that the article was fair comment on a government report and therefore privileged under Illinois law; the District Court granted the motion, but the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. 318 F.2d 652. After remand, this Court decided New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686, and on the basis of that decision the District Court granted Time's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals again reversed, holding that there must be a trial on the question of whether Time's failure to make clear that it was reporting no more than allegations showed 'actual malice.' 354 F.2d 558.

At the trial, Pape called the policemen who had participated in the Monroe raid. They all testified that nothing resembling the events described in the Time article as findings of the Commission had occurred.** There was also extensive testimony from the Time staff member who had written the article and from the 'researcher' who had been responsible for checking its factual accuracy. The author testified that he had written the article on the basis of the Justice report itself, a Commission press release accompanying the report, and a New York Times news story describing Justice. He conceded that he knew the meanings of the words 'alleged' and 'complaint,' but denid that the Time article was false, given the full context of the Justice report. The researcher testified that she had consulted several newspaper articles describing Monroe's claims about the raid, and several articles describing Pape's previous career. She said that she had also read two dispatches from Time's Chicago correspondent, one of them describing Monroe's charges without comment as to their truth and the other asserting as fact that the events had actually occurred. She conceded that she was aware of the omission of the word 'alleged' in the Time article, but said that she believed the article to have been true as written.

At the close of the evidence, the District Court granted Time's motion for a directed verdict, 294 F.Supp. 1087, and Pape appealed for a third time. The Court of Appeals again reversed the District Court, holding that it was for the jury to determine whether Time's omission of the word 'alleged' showed 'actual malice.' 419 F.2d 980. We granted certiorari in order to decide the constitutional issue presented under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. 397 U.S. 1062, 90 S.Ct. 1501, 25 L.Ed.2d 683.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals were in agreement that the plaintiff Pape was a 'public official' by virtue of his position as Deputy Chief of Detectives of the Chicago Police Department, and that the charges contained in the Monroe complaint, the Justice report, and the Time story concerned his 'official conduct.' The two courts differed only in their application of the rule of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686, which 'prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with 'actual malice'—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.' Id., at 279—280, 84 S.Ct., at 726.

The only question before us, therefore, is whether the Court of Appeals correctly applied this constitutional rule to the facts of this case in reversing the directed verdict for the defendant. Inquiries of this kind are familiar under the settled principle that '(i)n cases in which there is a claim of denial of rights under the Federal Constitution, this Court is not bound by the conclusions of lower courts, but will reexamine the evidentiary basis on which those conclusions are founded.' Niemotko v. Maryland, ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
317 cases
  • Reader's Digest Assn. v. Superior Court, S.F. 24686
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • November 19, 1984
    ...picture (New York Times Company v. Connor (5th Cir.1966) 365 F.2d 567, 576) or an accurate one [citing Time, Inc. v. Pape (1971) 401 U.S. 279, 91 S.Ct. 633, 28 L.Ed.2d 45]" (Gomes v. Fried, supra, 136 Cal.App.3d 924, 934, 186 Cal.Rptr. 605). So long as he has no serious doubts concerning it......
  • DiSalle v. P.G. Pub. Co.
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 5, 1988
    ...proper definition of actual malice to be applied. In support of this assertion the appellant relies heavily on Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279, 91 S.Ct. 663, 28 L.Ed.2d 45 (1971). Pape involved an article published in Time Magazine quoting parts of the then recently released fifth volume o......
  • Holbrook v. Casazza
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 7, 1987
    ...in a defamation case are properly tested under the clearly erroneous standard of review. Id.; see also Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279, 284, 91 S.Ct. 633, 636-637, 28 L.Ed.2d 45, reh. denied, 401 U.S. 1015, 91 S.Ct. 1248, 28 L.Ed.2d 552 (1971); cf. Tavoulareas v. Piro, 817 F.2d 762 (D.C.Ci......
  • Rutt v. Bethlehems' Globe Pub. Co.
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 6, 1984
    ...Police Department, prior to his resignation in March of 1977, caused him to attain the status of a public official. Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279, 91 S.Ct. 633, 28 L.Ed.2d 45 (1971); Orr v. Lynch, 411 N.Y.S.2d 10, 411 N.Y.S.2d 10, 383 N.E.2d 562 (1978); LaRocca v. New York News, Inc., 15......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Bearing false witness: perjured affidavits and the Fourth Amendment.
    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 41 No. 3, June 2008
    • June 22, 2008
    ...1964 SUP. CT. REV. 191 (1964). (154.) See New York Times, 376 U.S. at 270. (155.) See id. at 270-72; see also Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279, 291 (1971); Greenbelt Cooperative Pub. Ass'n. v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6, 10-11 (1970); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 306-07 (156.) See supra ......
  • E-law 4: Computer Information Systems Law and System Operator Liability
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 21-03, March 1998
    • Invalid date
    ...4.03, Mar. 1996, at 116. 222. See Edwards v. National Audubon Society, Inc., 556 F.2d 113 (2d. Cir. 1977). See also Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279 (1971) (holding that a newspaper's coverage of a government report which, due to inaccuracies, defamed a public official, could not result in ......
  • Constitutional law - First Circuit conducts independent, not clear-error, review in free speech case involving city ordinances - Sullivan v. City of Augusta.
    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 42 No. 2, March 2009
    • March 22, 2009
    ...485 U.S. 981, 981-82 (1988) (White, J., dissenting) (dissenting from Court's decision not to resolve circuit split); Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279, 293-94 (1971) (Harlan, J., dissenting) (predicting negative repercussions of adopting independent review); Hardin v. Santa Fe Reporter, Inc.......
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1970-1971
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 24-4, December 1971
    • December 1, 1971
    ...628, opinion by Justice Stewart, vote: 9-0) and a similar classification was assigned to a police officer inTime, Incorporated v. Pape (401 U.S. 279; 91 S. Ct. 633, opinion by JusticeStewart, vote: 8-1, Harlan dissenting). In all of these cases the basic point wasthat there was no knowledge......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT