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Opinion
Cass R. Sunstein

The Dark Side of New York Times v. Sullivan

On the 50th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court free speech ruling, New York Times v. Sullivan, an exploration of the ruling's downside and its impact on civil debate.
Are they still dancing in celebration outside the New York Times building? Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg News
Are they still dancing in celebration outside the New York Times building? Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg News

Quiz question: What is the most important free speech ruling in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court?

The best answer may well be New York Times v. Sullivan, decided 50 years ago this month. In that case, the court ruled, for the first time, that the First Amendment shields speakers and writers from libel suits.