Miami Herald Publishing Co V Tornillo


418 U.S. 241 (1974)

Facts of the Case:

Pat Tornillo was Executive Director of the Classroom Teachers Association and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives in Dade County, Florida. The Miami Herald published two editorials criticizing Tornillo and his candidacy. He demanded that the Herald publish his responses to the editorials. When the Herald refused, Tornillo sued in Dade County Circuit Court under Florida Statute Section 104.38, which granted political candidates criticized by any newspaper the right to have their responses to the criticisms published. The Herald challenged the statute as a violation of the free press clause of the First Amendment. The Circuit Court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Florida reversed this decision.


Did Florida Statute Section 104.38, the "right to reply" statute, violate the free press clause of the First Amendment applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?


Yes. In a unanimous decision, the Court reversed the Supreme Court of Florida and held that Florida's "right to reply" statute violated the freedom of press found in the First Amendment. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, the Court recognized the risks posed to the "true marketplace of ideas" by media consolidation and barriers to entry in the newspaper industry. However, even in that context, "press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution and…cannot be legislated." The statute was an "intrusion into the function of editors," and imposed "a penalty on the basis of the content." Chief Justice Burger relied on New York Times v. Sullivan in that the "right to reply" statute "limits the variety of public debate," and was therefore unconstitutional. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. authored a concurring statement. Justice Byron R. White authored a concurring opinion.


Decision: 9 votes for Miami Herald Publishing Co., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

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