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Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988). No. 86-1278 Supreme Court of the United States 485 U.S. 46 Argued December 2, 1987 Decided February 24, 1988.

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hustler magazine v falwell 1988
Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988)

No. 86-1278

Supreme Court of the United States

485 U.S. 46

Argued December 2, 1987

Decided February 24, 1988


Campari Ad Parody An ad was published in the November issue of Hustler magazine. It portrayed Jerry Falwell in an unpleasant light. It stated that the plaintiff in the case had a drunk, incestuous night with his mother in an outhouse. Though this was published, in the table of contents it stated that the ad was “Fiction; Ad and Personality Parody.”

the united states district court of virginia

Jerry Falwell sued Larry Flynt and Hustler magazine for libel claims, privacy claims, and tort of intentional emotional distress. The Court found for Hustler on the privacy claims and let the jury to decide for the other two. The jury found against Falwell on the libel claims because they believed it could not “reasonably understood to be describing actual facts…or events.” On the other hand, it found against Hustler for the tort of intentional emotional distress. It awarded Falwell $150,000 for compensatory and punitive damages.

The United States District Court of Virginia

Original Jurisdiction

the appeals court

Basically, the Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of the District Court . Hustler felt as though the actual malice standard had to be met before Falwell could recover damages. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court .

The Appeals Court


Does the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection extend to the use of offensive language against public figures?
larry flynt and hustler magazine s argument
Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine’s Argument
  • Political cartoons
  • People in everyday life
  • Reputational damage
  • Reasoning for publication
jerry falwell s argument
Jerry Falwell’s Argument
  • “deliberate, malicious character assassination not protect by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
  • Ad parody published twice
  • “It will be the rare case indeed where this kind of behavior will ever be replicated, but where it occurs, it deserves the condemnation which the jury gave it, which the Fourth Circuit found, and which I respectfully submit the Court should affirm.”
the supreme court final decision

After hearing both sides of the case, the final decision was made. Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the court. The Supreme Court announced that they reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. In favor of the respondent, there were 8 votes for Hustler and 0 votes for the petitioner. They stated how actual malice was not proven. The respondent was clearly a public figure and will not be recovering the damages awarded to him by the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court Final Decision
opinion of the outcome
Opinion of the Outcome

“Speech does not lose its protected character…simply because it may embarrass others or coerce them into action.” When the parody was published, it was stated that it was fake in the table of contents and on the page itself. When people become celebrities or public figures, they lose some of those rights that are stated in the trial.


"Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell Case Brief | 4 Law School." Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell Case Brief | 4 Law School. Accessed November 19, 2013.

"Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988)." Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988). Accessed November 6, 2013.

"Hustler Magazine v. Falwell." Findlaw. Accessed November 6, 2013.

"HUSTLER MAGAZINE v. FALWELL." Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. Accessed November 19, 2013. 1989/1987/1987_86_1278.

Toomey, J. P. "How Far Is Too Far In Political Cartooning?" Shop Talk At Thirty, March 1, 1997, 48-49. Accessed November 6, 2013.