After appellant newspaper had refused to print appellee's replies to editorials critical of appellee's candidacy for state office, appellee brought suit in Florida Circuit Court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and damages, based on Florida's "right of reply" statute that grants a political candidate a right to equal space to answer criticism and attacks on his record by a newspaper, and making it a misdemeanor for the newspaper to fail to comply. The Circuit Court held the statute
1. The Florida Supreme Court's judgment is "final" under 28 U.S.C. 1257, and thus is ripe for review by this Court. North Dakota Pharmacy Bd. v. Snyder's Stores, 414 U.S. 156. Pp. 246-247.
2. The statute violates the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press. Pp. 247-258.
(a) Governmental compulsion on a newspaper to publish that which "reason" tells it should not be published is unconstitutional. P. 256.
(b) The statute operates as a command by a State in the same sense as a statute or regulation forbidding appellant to publish specified matter. P. 256.
(c) The statute exacts a penalty on the basis of the content of a newspaper by imposing additional printing, composing, and materials costs and by taking up space that could be devoted to other material the newspaper may have preferred to print. Pp. 256-257.
(d) Even if a newspaper would face no additional costs to comply with the statute and would not be forced to forgo publication of news or opinion by the inclusion of a reply, the statute still fails to clear the First Amendment's barriers because of its [418 U.S. 241, 242] intrusion into the function of editors in choosing what material goes into a newspaper and in deciding on the size and content of the paper and the treatment of public issues and officials. P. 258.
287 So.2d 78, reversed.
Full Text (FindLaw)