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Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment
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Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  398 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The First Amendment puts it this way: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Yet, in 1960, a city official in Montgomery, Alabama, sued The New York Times for libel -- and was awarded $500,000 by a local jury -- because the paper had published an ad critical of Montgomery's brutal response to civil rights protests. The centuries of ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Local girl finishes law school, reads legal history book for fun.
Bob H
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law-history
This book was one reason why I took up the study of law at 50. Anthony Lewis begins with a Supreme Court case and ends up reviewing this country's long experience of free speech controversy. The premise is simple enough: Sullivan v. New York Times, which started as a 1960 civil rights case, involving a defamation lawsuit in Alabama, and ending up as a pivotal Supreme Court ruling on freedom of speech and of the press. The legal importance of the case alone justifies Mr. Lewis' interest.

Apr 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shows just why con law is so sexy.
Sarah Sutton
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: practical
An engaging account of the case of the NY Times Company vs Sullivan, a case of civil libel filed in 1960 by Montgomery Police Commissioner Sullivan against the New York Times for printing a paid advertisement entitled "Heed Their Rising Voices," an article which, he claimed, libeled him personally.

The content of the article itself was a solicitation for donations to the defense fund of Dr Martin Luther King who was currently incarcerated under charges of tax fraud (the unfounded charges were lat
Daxton Stewart
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is probably why I went to law school, as well as why I returned to a career in journalism. Wonderful narrative of how free speech emerged as an important value over time in the US. I met Anthony Lewis & got a signed copy. Because I'm a nerd. ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very readable discussion of the landmark US Supreme Court decision of New York Times v. Sullivan, which dealt with the intersection between traditional libel law and the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The book traces the issues back to colonial days, supplies insider views of the processes of writing the briefs and of the court's opinions in the New York Times case, and shows how the law has evolved since that time. The book's discussion is sophisticate ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anthony Lewis, author of book length treatments of topical interest here writes a surprisingly relevant account of the seminal First Amendment case New York Times v. Sullivan. He gives us a perspective of what libel law was like before the 1964 Sullivan decision. The overlap of constitutional restriction embodied in the First Amendment and civil suits between private parties has since reached beyond public officials to "matters of general concern" thus giving appellate courts a tool to limit lib ...more
Kat McKay
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very informative study of the case that shaped current libel and First Amendment case law.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, law
Almost an exhaustive account of the first amendment from its origin to today's situation, in a reader-friendly, and non-technical way.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. I couldn’t put it down! Highly recommend read for those interested in Supreme Court “happenings.”
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Unhappy with an editorial advertisement published in the New York Times by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South, L. B. Sullivan, a City Commissioner in Montgomery, Alabama sued the Times for libel in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County for half a million dollars. An all white jury granted the full amount. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld their judgment. The Times appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1962. It might have argued that Mr. ...more
Dec 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
"Democracy means the power to choose, and choice is an illusion without information." In our country's landmark first amendment cases, various litigants have argued that concerns of national security, obscenity and libel, as this book focuses on, trump this sacred principle. In chronicling these cases, Anthony Lewis provides a refreshing historical backdrop to each one, (re)familiarizing the reader with essential U.S. history. The case at the center of this book, Sullivan v. The New York Times, ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
Finally finished reading this book. I'm really glad that the frist book about law I read is this one. I was shocked, excited, touched and inspired while reading it. It's amazing that there's so much effort American people have done to guarantee the freedom of press and speech. It's obvious that the author, Anthony Lewis, has done a lot of work to do research about the case, including the history and opinions about it. There're very detailed reference everywhere, so are the explanations of techni ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating in-depth look at the NY Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court case, which was decided in 1964 but still has great relevance today. I am a bit of a 1st Amendment nerd, and this book ticked all my boxes. Competing interests of reputation and free speech, government/police abuse of power, the law functioning properly to overturn grave injustice. The sociological commentary presented about the great threat to a free press (and why a free press is so important to a functioning democracy) and to ...more
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
The primary subject of this book is the Supreme Court case Sullivan vs. New York Times Co., a landmark case in the constitutional law of libel. At the height of the civil rights movement The Times published an advertisement condemning the actions of police in Montgomery, Alabama. Although not mentioned by name, Sullivan, the police commisioner, argued that the advertisement had damaged his reputation. In discussing this case, Lewis also takes the opportunity to present a fascinating history of t ...more
Kara Yoh
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. For anyone who hasn't studied law, it is also a really great read. Anthony Lewis explains things very clearly and presents some really great facts that you don't get just from reading the case. I especially enjoyed the chapter which describes what went on during the weeks when the opinion was being circulated, because it gave some insight into what happens behind the scenes at the Supreme Court and how the judges think, decide, and influence each other. Overall a grea ...more
Jul 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting work on the history of the First Amendment in American history, and especially the trial of the case Sullivan v. New York Times, but the book didn't always flow smoothly, much of it could have been cut, and it seemed pretty dense in some areas. But Lewis certainly knows his stuff, and he helps readers who have little understanding of the legal discipline and the jargon within.
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
You can't really grasp the meaning of the First Amendment and the purpose behind modern libel law until you learn this history from Tony Lewis. I wish all the haters of so-called mainstream media could learn their history and understand what it has meant to stand up to government (not that it always works out that way).
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: law
"We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death." --Holmes dissenting in Abrams v. United States.

The book itself is dry, quoting to much opinions, and too focused on Sullivan, in the expense of other important free speech cases.
Randy Carlson
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly complex topic. One of the best books I have read because it shows the importance of history in the creation of law. Lewis is not pollyannish about the backfire effect that the Sullivan Case caused with respect to more expensive libel actions. I now have to see if there is a book on TIme vs. Hill, which is, to my mind, even a bigger deal than the Sullivan Case.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author has a very easy way of explaining some complicated issues regarding Supreme Court decisions and the First Amendment. His presentation of the history of freedom of speech and press was fascinating and the concrete examples he gives for philosophic and abstract concepts make it all understandable.
Kim Horner McCoy
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought-used, law
You will learn more about the First Amendment and judicial process in this one book than you did in the whole of civics class (if you had one, which you likely didn't). Entertaining and enlightening.
Jul 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
i read this book many year's ago. should probably read it again.
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
I actually enjoined learning about the shaky grounds of the first amendment. It is such a tentative "right."
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Essential for anyone interested in the First Amendment and how it operates in the legal system.
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was required reading for my first year of law school. Very informative on the first amendment and freedom of the press.
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
very educational about an important topic.
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Wonderful and very readable book about the Freedom of Press in USA from Bill of Rights to Supreme Court judgement in Sullivan Case vs NY Times
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
good but not as fast-paced or well-written as gideon's trumpet.
Bauer Evans
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ap-government
Summer reading, for AP Students wanting to understand the story behind this important precedent setting Supreme Court case
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Anthony Lewis was an American intellectual and columnist for the New York Times.

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