The Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear a case challenging libel protection for journalists, but justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the decision and questioned whether a landmark ruling protecting the press needed to be overhauled.
The conservative justices cited a changing media environment and said in separate rulings that the court needs to take a new look at a 1964 decision that makes it difficult for public figures and others to sue the press.
The challenge emerged after the court refused to take on an appeal by Shkelzën Berisha, the son of a former Albanian prime minister, who had sued author Guy Lawson for defamation for his 2015 book “Arms and the Dudes,” which was made into a 2016 Hollywood film, “War Dogs,” starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.
A lower court had ruled in favor of Lawson and his publisher, Simon & Schuster because Berisha was unable to prove that allegations of his involvement in arms dealing constituted “actual malice,” according to a Reuters report. That standard was established in a 1964 case, New York Times v. Sullivan.
Gorsuch and Thomas said the court should have taken the Berisha case because today actual malice can protect disinformation in the press. “Public figure or private, lies impose real harm,” said Thomas.