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UPDATE: U.S. SUPREME COURT

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UPDATE: U.S. SUPREME COURT 05/18/98 In late April the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review the decision of the…

UPDATE: U.S. SUPREME COURT

05/18/98

In late April the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review the decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court that a former U.S. attorney was not a public figure for the purpose of a libel suit the attorney won against a Little Rock newspaper.

Former U.S. Attorney J. Michael Fitzhugh sued the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for libel after the newspaper accidentally printed his picture next to a story about Eugene Fitzhugh, an attorney accused of Whitewater-related crimes. The trial court held that J. Michael Fitzhugh was a private individual who had only to prove that the Democrat-Gazette had been negligent when it defamed him. The newspaper had argued that, because in the past Fitzhugh had been a well-known public official whose work had been covered by the media, he was a public figure and thus would have to prove that the newspaper knowingly printed a falsehood or showed reckless disregard for the truth.

The jury awarded $50,000 to Fitzhugh, and the state Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the trial court. (Little Rock Newspapers Inc. v. Fitzhugh; Media Counsel: John Tull, Little Rock)