for a North Carolina man to write the President and complain about a local candidate for U.S. Attorney, the Court decided. The federal government can selectively prosecute “vocal” nonregistrants for the draft who wrote letters to the President or otherwise brought themselves to the attention of officials, according to the Court, and a person could be prosecuted for violating a ban on distributing literature on Hickman Air Force Base, even during an “open house” for the public. And, in perhaps the biggest shift in more than a decade, the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment does not insulate an entire category of speech against defamation claims, affirming a $350,000 award of actual and punitive damages against the credit-reporting agency Dun & Bradstreet for incorrectly publishing that a company had filed for bankruptcy. The new decision means that speech which is not a matter of “public concern” will no longer be protected from libel suits by the traditional “public figure” or “public official” doctrines, as in the past. Now, states will be free in cases falling in the new class of speech to return to the common law of libel without proving at least negligence by the publisher. In most states, “innocent mistake” is not a defense against libel. Under the new rule, libel plaintiffs could collect money judgments without proof of actual damages. Just as ominous is the Court’s recent decision to take a case for the next term to consider whether libel defendants tiffs, bear the burden of proving whether an article is true or false. Shifting the burden from the one claiming libel to the one being sued would be disastrous for those who cannot afford attorneys or expensive libel insurance a serious problem for smaller, more controversial publications. Where should we turn then if the U.S. Supreme Court is abandoning its role as protector of civil liberties? Who will step forward to take its place? Glimmers of hope have come from state judges who accept the duty of protecting the rights guaranteed by the Texas Bill of Rights, which is often more comprehensive and solicitous of individual rights than its federal counterpart. If they take up the challenge, Texas judges will be following the example of other state courts throughout the land. As Judge Marvin Teague of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has written, “Persons of this country must look to their States . . . independent appellate judiciaries for whatever rights, liberties, and freedoms they want to have. . . . this great State of Texas constitute an independent appellate judiciary, and do not exist, when it comes to interpreting the Constitution and laws of this State, solely to mimic decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Texas certainly has not yet seized the lead of the reborn states’ rights advocates for individual freedoms, but recent decisions from Texas courts hold out the hope of what may come from courageous judges willing to decide cases not always popular with the electorate. Civil libertarians do yearn for a new era, an age of hope in which Texas judges, in the words of Judge Sam Houston Clinton, zealously protect “the special importance our Texan forebears attached to their right of privacy and other guarantees vouchsafed by the Bill of Rights they first declared and then insisted on retaining in every successive constitution.” But the fragile margin on the U.S. Supreme Court sensitive to civil liberties is a dramatic and jarring reminder that CIVIL LIBERTIES AWARD The Texas Civil Liberties Union, this year celebrating 20 years in Texas, seeks nominations for who has done the most to advance civil liberties in Texas during that tative who has done the most to illuminate civil liberties issues. Award recipients will be featured at a dinner this fall. Send nominations to TCLU 20th Anniversary Committee, 600 West 7th Street, Austin, TX 78701. complete personal and business insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY 808-A East 46th P.O. Box 4666, Austin 78765 Observer Bequests Austin attorney Vivian Mahlab has agreed to consult with those interested in including the Observer in their estate planning. For further information, contact Vivian Mahlab, attorney-at-law, P.C., at 617 Blanco, Austin, Texas 78703, or call 512-477-1700. our freedom is too important to be left exclusively, or even predominantly, in the hands of judges. We must also fight for our constitutional values in the political arena, at school board meetings, in city councils, and in the state legislature. We must realize that, in the long run, it is not the U.S. Supreme Court that keeps us free or turns us into mere shadows of freedom it is up to US. The Texas Observer is prominently displayed for purchase’ at these locations: Chameleons 607 Trinity Street Austin Old World Bakery 814 W. 12th Street Austin Watson & Company Books 604 Blanco Street Austin Whole Earth Company 2410 San Antonio Street Austin Whole Earth Company 4006 S. Lamar Blvd. Austin Whole Earth Company 8868 Research Blvd. Austin Whole Earth Company 105 Boyett College Station Paperbacks y Mas 1819 Blanco Road San Antonio Rosengren’s Books 223 Losoya San Antonio MOW This publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International. Call toll-free 800-521-3044. In Michigan. Alaska and Hawaii call collect 313-761-4700. Or mail inquiry to: University Ivlicrofilms International, . El THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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