Jurisdiction–Libel–First Amendment’s Role in Determining Place of Trial in Libel Actions

The seeming unfairness of basing jurisdiction solely on such ordinarily inconsequential acts as mailing a newspaper into another state has troubled some courts. Traditionally, the validity of such a jurisdictional basis would be judged against the fourteenth amendment standard of “fair play.” In several recent cases, however, courts have brought to bear constitutional standards of free speech as well as of fairness in dealing with the problem of jurisdiction over the out-of- state defendant in a libel action. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in deciding New York Times Co. v. Connor, ruled that “First Amendment considerations surrounding the law of libel require a greater showing of contact to satisfy the due process clause than is necessary in asserting jurisdiction over other types of tortious activity.” Shortly after this pronouncement the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York Post v. Buckley, rejected the Connor position and proposed instead that first amendment considerations be handled through the doctrine of forum non conveniens. In a third case, Curtis Publishing Go. v. Golino, the Fifth Circuit, which had decided Connor, declared that jurisdiction might be acquired more easily where the defendant is a national magazine rather than a newspaper. This Note attempts an analysis of the rules formulated in these cases and the criticism and commentary, both judicial and academic, which have been directed at them.