Anderson v. Liberty Lobby
SCOTUS - 1986 (477 U.S. 242)
- D's (Anderson's) magazine published articles about P's organization that portrayed them as Nazi and Fascist.
- P alleged that the information in the articles was false and derogatory and sued D for libel.
- In a libel suit brought by a public official, the First Amendment requires the P to show that in publishing the defamatory statement the D acted with actual malice "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. From New York Times, the actual malice must be shown with "convicing clarity".
- D moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 and asserted that P had to prove its case under the standards set forth in New York Times, even in the summary judgment phase.
- District court ruled that NYT had to be applied and that there was no finding of actual malice. Thus, motion for summary judgment for D was granted.
- COA affirmed as to 21 counts and reversed as to 9 counts saying that the convincing clarity test did not belong in the summary judgment phase.
- SCOTUS reversed, remanded to COA to apply full NYT test.
- Does a court have to use the standard of proof that will be used in deciding a case (beyond reasonable doubt, preponderance, "convincing clarity" in libel cases) when deciding a motion for summary judgment?
- A court must use the standard of proof that will be used in deciding a case when deciding a motion for summary judgment.
- Rule 56(c) of FRCP says that summary judgment should be rendered if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
- Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will be ignored.
- At the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. If evidence on the other side is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may still be granted.
- The summary judgment standard mirrors Rule 50(a) for directed verdict. "The trial judge must direct a verdict if, under the governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict. If reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, however, a verdict should not be directed."
- The inquiry involved in a ruling on a motion for summary judgment necessarily implicates the substantive evidentiary standard of proof that would apply at the trial on the merits.
- In this case, there is no genuine issue if the evidence presented in the opposing affidavits is of insufficient caliber or quantity to allow a rational finder of fact to find actual malice by clear and convincing evidence.
- A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
- The court's decision is not supported by case law.
- It is impossible to reconcile the notion that a judge is not to weigh the evidence with the direction that the judge must bear in mind the quantum of proof required.
- Summary judgment motions will become full-blown paper trials.