UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Elmer Gertz


Since the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, the law of defamation has been developed largely by the Supreme Court with constitutional protections, removed from common law or statutory development by the states. The author, the plaintiff in the leading defamation case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., traces the constitutionalization of the law of defamation. The author argues that the Supreme Court decisions since New York Times have been inconsistent and have resulted in the localization of constitutional protection, such that the result in a given defamation case depends on the state in which the action arises. The author advocates a return to the common law or, alternatively, regulation by state statute.