The Sullivan ruling only makes journalists liable for libel in the most egregious cases of misreporting.
Professional journalism groups reacted with alarm after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas released an opinion Tuesday urging the high court to reconsider a landmark freedom of the press decision called New York Times v. Sullivan.
The Sullivan ruling generally shields reporters and news platforms from libel or defamation lawsuits provided they were acting in good faith. Though journalists believe that protection is essential, Justice Thomas said the high court was wrong to usurp the role of states in regulating libel.
“[Sullivan] and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas’s opinion reads.
“We should not continue to reflexively apply this policy-driven approach to the Constitution,” Thomas added. “Instead, we should carefully examine the original meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”