Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsLibel

High Court Rejects ex-Mobil Chief's Libel Suit Against Washington Post

October 06, 1987|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out former Mobil Corp. President William P. Tavoulareas' libel suit against the Washington Post, ending an eight-year fight that called into question the boundaries of investigative reporting.

The court, without comment or dissent, let stand a 7-1 appeals court ruling last year that said a 1979 article reporting that Tavoulareas had "set up" his son in a shipping company that did business with Mobil was "substantially true" and was not libelous.

A federal court jury found in 1982 that the Post and reporter Patrick E. Tyler had libeled Tavoulareas and awarded him $2.05 million. The trial judge overruled the jury, but he was later overruled 2 to 1 by a three-judge appeals court panel. Last March, the full appeals court overturned that ruling.

The original decision by the three-judge appeals panel said that a newspaper's reputation for investigative stories, in itself, could be evidence of "a motive" for publishing a "knowing or reckless falsehood," prompting fears among press lawyers that it would discourage investigative reporting. Senior Judge George E. MacKinnon wrote the opinion and was joined by then-Judge Antonin Scalia. Scalia, now on the Supreme Court, did not participate in Monday's action.

The action let stand the appeals court's strong rejection of the three-judge panel's reasoning and result. The full court of appeals offered a broad vindication of the investigative reporting techniques used by Tyler and the Post, saying the record "abounds with uncontradicted evidence of nepotism" favoring Tavoulareas' son.

Post Executive Editor Benjamin C. Bradlee called the high court's dismissal of the appeal a great "victory for responsible journalism."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|