JERRY FALWELL V. LARRY FLYNT: The First Amendment on Trial by Rodney A. Smolla

JERRY FALWELL V. LARRY FLYNT: The First Amendment on Trial

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Smolla (Law/William and Mary; Suing the Press, 1986) offers an account of one of the most recent freedom-of-the-press cases, one that provides an excellent integration of the legal, political, and historical issues involved. In 1983, Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine published a parody of a Campari advertisement that depicted Rev. Jerry Falwell as a drunkard engaging in sex with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued for defamation, appropriation of his name and likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury held for Falwell. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Hustler and against Falwell. Here, Smolla writes with a lawyer's concern for the facts as they relate to the law. Thus, we get a blow-by-blow account of the pretrial proceedings, marked by Flynt's incredibly hostile and wild behavior; of the trial; and of the arguments presented in the Supreme Court. The author does justice to both sides of the argument: Falwell's defense of his character and reputation versus Flynt's right to criticize a public figure through ridicule and parody. Smolla's great strength is his ability to clarify the issues and to relate them to other cases involving freedom of the press. It has been said that every controversy in American life ends up as a legal one. This book provides a good road map of the interrelationships of law, culture, and values that gives American constitutional law its unique place in the history of jurisprudence.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's