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* Eric Embry; New York Times' Lawyer in Landmark Libel Case

January 15, 1992

Eric Embry, 70, retired Alabama Supreme Court justice who as a lawyer defended the New York Times in a landmark libel case brought by a Montgomery police commissioner. Embry represented the newspaper when it was sued for libel by L. B. Sullivan over a 1960 advertisement that accused Alabama authorities of abusing civil rights workers. Sullivan won $500,000 at trial, but that verdict was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a historic 1964 ruling. That ruling established that public officials could win damages in libel cases only if they proved "actual malice"--that false statements were made either knowingly or with reckless disregard for whether they were false. Embry assisted in the successful appeal, although the major argument was made by a Columbia Law School professor, Herbert Wechsler. On Sunday in Birmingham of cancer.

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