Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

ment bears its own refutation on its face, for it is apparent that these publications are made for the express purpose of preventing presumably honest members of the candidate's own political party, as well as others, from voting for him. Counsel omit in their statement one very important element, viz., intelligence. They would hardly be willing to assert that all honest, intelligent men would vote for a candidate of their party for an important office, who has confessed such ignorance as to show unfitness, although ignorance be no legal disqualification. If defendant's contention be correct, then one may publish of a candidate that he cannot read or write, or that he has confessed that he cannot. No one would seriously contend that such a publication would not be injurious and libelous, and that it would not deprive the candidate of many votes. To hold otherwise would be an insult to the intelligence of our people. Yet no moral turpitude or crime or legal disqualification is charged, and therefore no libel is uttered.

But why stop there, if disqualification is to be made the test? Conviction of crime is not by the constitution of the United States made a disqualification for the office of member of Congress. The only constitutional requirements are, that the member shall be twenty-five years old, seven years a citizen, and an inhabitant of the state where he is chosen. Aside from these, the House of Representatives is the judge of the qualifications of its members. There are many crimes for the conviction of which that body would not consider a memberelect disqualified; yet to publish of him, when a candidate, that he is guilty of such crime is admitted to be libelous, if not true. Public journals are in the performance of a high duty when they truthfully place such charges before the public. To illustrate, that one has been a gambler does not disqualify him for the office. He may have reformed and become an exemplary citizen. But the fact that he has been a gambler is proper to be placed before the people. The electors are the ones to determine whether they wish such a man to represent them in Congress. Their verdict in his favor would undoubtedly be held conclusive of his right to the office. Disqualification to hold the office cannot therefore be made the test to determine the libelous character of the publication.

Criticism is a discussion, or as applicable in libel cases, & censure, of the conduct or character or utterances of the per.

AX. ST. REP., VOL XXI. - 40

Bon criticised. When one becomes a candidate for public office, he thereby deliberately places these before the public for their discussion and consideration. They may be criticised according to the taste of the writer or speaker, and the law will protect them in so doing, provided that in their statements of or reference to the facts upon which their criticisms are based they observe an honest regard for the truth. In such a discussion the law gives a wide liberty. Within this limit public journals, speakers upon the hustings, and private individuals may express opinions, and indulge in criticisms upon the character or habits or mental and moral qualifications of official candidates: Cooley on Torts, 217. This is the freedom of the press guaranteed by the constitution, - a freedom necessary for the protection of the liberties and the proper enlightenment of the people. When the facts are truthfully written or spoken of a candidate's character and conduct, they then become known to the reader and hearer, as well as to the writer and speaker. Both go before the people together, and they can seldom be misled, and the candidate cannot be injured within the meaning of the law. The same reasoning and rule applies to the utterances of a candidate when they are truthfully stated. But a statement that he gave utterance, either in writing or in speech, to certain language is neither criticism nor expression of opinion. It is a statement of fact, for the truth of which the publisher is responsible. When language is truthfully stated, the criticism thereon, if unjust, will fall harmless, for the former furnishes a ready antidote for the intended poison. Readers can then determine whether the writer has by the publication libeled himself or the candidate. When the language is falsely and maliciously stated, privilege ceases to constitute a defense. The case of Walker v. Tribune Co., 29 Fed. Rep. 827, is a good illustration of this principle. Walker bad published a pamphlet, and the defendant, in its newspaper, spoke of it as "plainly the effusion of a crank.” It was held that the word "crank" is not in itself actionable; that it has no necessary defamatory meaning; and if it is used in a defamatory sense, such sense must be given by an appropriate innuendo. As a criticism, although it underrated the author's talents, it was not libelous: Bron8on v. Bruce, 59 Mich. 471; McAllister v. Detroit Free Press Co., 76 Mich. 356; 15 Am. St. Rep. 318; Bailey v. Kalamazoo Pub. Co., 40 Mich. 257; Wheaton v. Beecher, 66 Mich. 310.

The character and reputation of the candidate for public

.

office should be protected from malicious attack by the same rule as are those of private individuals. Greater latitude is allowed, undoubtedly, in the one case than in the other. Beyond this the same rule applies to both. The correct and reasonable rule is stated in Crane v. Waters, 10 Fed. Rep. 619, as follows: “The modern doctrine ... appears to be, that the public has a right to discuss, in good faith, the public conduct and qualifications of a public man .... with more freedom than they can take with a private matter. .... In such discussions they are not held to prove the exact truth of their statements and the soundness of their inferences, provided that they are not actuated by express malice, and that there is reasonable ground for their statements or inferences, all of which is for the jury."

In Wheaton v. Beecher, 66 Mich. 310, Mr. Justice Sherwood, in delivering the opinion of the court, says: “There is no doubt that when a man in this country becomes a candidate for an office, elective or appointive, his character for honesty and integrity, and his qualifications and fitness for the position, are put before the people, and are thereby made proper subjects for comment, and that publications of the truth in regard to the candidate are not libelous; and it is equally true that the publication of falsehood against such candidate is wrong, and deserves to be punished."

Justice certainly demands that in these discussions one should not transcend the bounds of truth, for, in addition to the commission of a private wrong, great public injury might result: Foster v. Scripps, 39 Mich. 379; 33 Am. Rep. 403. In my judgment, a more potent reason exists for the observance of truth in such a case than in publications respecting private matters.

Publications of falsehoods are never privileged. No public interest can be subserved by their publication and circulation. If statements, though false, are published in good faith, and with an honest belief of their truth, the damages may be reduced to a minimum. No other rule will properly protect the freedom of the press and the rights of individuals. In the language of one of the authorities: “The only safe rule to adopt in such cases is to permit editors to publish what they please, in relation to character and qualifications of candidates for office, but holding them responsible for the truth of what they publish.”

There may be difficulty in distinguishing between justifiable criticism and actionable misrepresentation, but this does not affect the rule. In such cases the jury must determine the question under the proper instructions. None of the cases cited by counsel for defendant, or in the opinion of the learned circuit judge, are at all similar in their facts to those of the case at bar. In none of them did the publication charge the plaintiff with having written or spoken certain language which in fact he did not use. These cases generally go no further than to hold that matters of opinion are not libelous. In my judgment, until courts are prepared to hold that ignorance constitutes no unfitness for office, they must hold the publication set forth in the first count as libelous. If such a letter were written by the plaintiff, it would show him to be ignorant, illiterate, and incapable to perform intelligently his duties as a member of Congress.

The character of the language set forth in the second count depends upon the meaning of the words “ I ain't built that way."

The innuendo says that defendant meant that plaintiff was too ignorant and imbecile to discuss the question, or to express in a decent way his intention not to discuss it. The province of the innuendo is to explain and give meaning to ambiguous language. If extrinsic evidence is required to ascertain its meaning, the jury must determine that question: Bourrescau v. Detroit Evening Journal Co., 63 Mich. 425; 6 Am. St. Rep. 320. The meaning of these words as used in the context is certainly not clear. The demurrer, for the purposes of this case, admits both the meaning supplied by the innuendo and the malice charged. When all the facts are placed before the court and jury upon the trial, the question whether or not the publication was libelous will be presented for their determination. The declaration makes out a case proper to be submitted upon the facts which may be shown by the evidence.

The judgment must be reversed, with costs of both courts, and the case remanded for further proceedings.

LIBEL — CANDIDATES FOR PUBLIC Ormak. – As to what publications made concerning candidates for public office aro libelons, and what are not, 100 Aldrich v. Press Printing Co., 9 Minn. 133; 86 Am. Dec. 84, and particu. larly note 88 et seq.; note to McAlister v. Detroit Free Press Co., 15 Am. St. Rep. 349, 350.

WELCH V. TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

(83 MICHIGAN, 661.) JURY AND JORORS - RIGHT TO REJECT JOROR WITHOUT CAUSE. - A court

has no right of its own motion to reject a qualified juror with whom tho parties are satisfied, unless for sufficient cause, which must appear in

the record. Libel – EVIDENCE – MALICE. - In an action of libel against a newspapor

publisher for charging that a jury perjured themselves in returning • verdict, evidence on the part of the plaintiff as to whether or not ans. influence other than that of the evidence and the instructions ana arga. ments of counsel was brought to bear upon him as a juror in the consid. eration and conclusion of his verdict is immaterial, and inadmissible

show malice. LIBEL - EVIDENCE OF MALICE. - In an action of libel against the publisher

of a newspaper for charging that a jury perjured themselves in rendering a verdict, evidence that a written request, signed by all the jurors, requesting such publisher to make a retraction, is admissible to show

malice, upon proof that such request reached such publisher. LIBEL — EVIDENCE OF JUSTIFICATION. — In an action of libel against the

publisher of a newspaper for charging that a jury perjured themselves in rendering a verdict, evidence that other newspapers published in the place where the verdict was rendered severely criticised the action of

the jury as extraordinary is admissible in justification. LIBEL — EVIDENCE OF MOTIVE FOR VERDICT. — In an action of libel by .

juror against a publisher of a newspaper for charging that a jury per. jured themselves in rendering a verdict, the plaintiff, as a witness in his own behalf, cannot be compelled, on cross-examination, to state his mo

tives or reasons for finding the verdict. LIBEL OF JURY. - A newspaper publication charging that a jury have per

jured themselves in rendering a verdict is libelous. LIBEL — REPUBLICATION AS EVIDENCE OF MALICE. — The republication of a

newspaper article, after the coinmencement of an action charging it to be libelous, with comments thereon by the defendant, may be evidence of malice.

W. H. H. Russell, for the appellant
John Atkinson, for the respondent.

CHAMPLIN, C. J. The plaintiff brought an action of trespass on the case against defendant for libel.

In June, 1889, the plaintiff was summoned to appear in the recorder's court of the city of Detroit as a talesman to serve as a juror in the trial of Nelson Brule, then about to be tried upon an information charging him with assaulting, with intent to kill and murder, Ida Corneau. He was examined as to his qualifications, and admitted and sworn as a juror in the cause. After hearing the testimony, the arguments of coun. sel, and the charge of the court, the jury retired to consider

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »