Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo - Wikipedia

Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Pat Tornillo
Argued April 17, 1974
Decided June 25, 1974
Full case nameMiami Herald Publishing Company, Division of Knight Newspapers, Incorporated v. Tornillo
Citations418 U.S. 241 (more)
94 S. Ct. 2831; 41 L. Ed. 2d 730; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 86; 1 Media L. Rep. 1898
Case history
PriorAppeal from the Supreme Court of Florida
A Florida law requiring newspapers to allow equal access to political candidates in the case of a political editorial or endorsement content is unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William O. Douglas · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
Case opinions
MajorityBurger, joined by unanimous
ConcurrenceBrennan, joined by Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974), was a seminal First Amendment ruling at the United States Supreme Court.[1] The Supreme Court overturned a Florida state law that required newspapers to offer equal space to political candidates who wished to respond to election-related editorials or endorsements. That law was found to be an unconstitutional restriction of freedom of the press under the First Amendment.[2]


In 1972 Pat Tornillo, a candidate for an upcoming election to the Florida House of Representatives, found that the Miami Herald newspaper had criticized his candidacy and endorsed his opponent. Tornillo wrote some replies in which he accused the newspaper of defaming his character, and demanded that the newspaper offer him free space in which to print them. Such a request was permissible under a Florida right of reply statute for newspapers (Florida Statute § 104.38).[2]

The newspaper refused Tornillo's demands so he sued in Florida court for violation of the state's right of reply statute. The Miami Herald responded that the Florida statute was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because it compelled newspapers to print content against their will.[2] After several local hearings, the case was sent to the Supreme Court of Florida, which ruled that the Florida statute was not a constitutional violation because, by offering media space to anyone regardless of their financial power or publishing abilities, it enhanced rather than restricted free speech.[3]

The Miami Herald requested a special appeal to the United States Supreme Court, because of questions related to the federal constitution, and the Supreme Court accepted the case per a federal law stating that a state supreme court's ruling on a federal question may not be the final word.[4]

Opinion of the court[edit]

The Supreme Court struck down the Florida right of reply statute for reasons of compelled speech, chilled speech, and the financial nature of the newspaper industry. The court held that the Florida statute violated the First Amendment by requiring newspapers to publish text against their will, while the statute may chill the press because "editors may conclude that the safe course is to avoid controversy".[2]

Furthermore, the Court held that unlike mass media broadcasting in which a right of reply may be merited due to scarce frequencies, the newspaper industry suffered no such restrictions and a criticized person would have a relatively easier time founding a competing publication, or even starting a new publication of their own.[5]

Thus, the Supreme Court overturned the Florida right of reply statute as a violation of freedom of the press, "because of its intrusion into the function of editors" and its restrictions on "the exercise of editorial control and judgment."[2]


Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo has been widely cited as one of the most important Supreme Court rulings on freedom of the press, serving as a crucial precedent in later disputes over government attempts to control the activities of newspapers.[5][6] However, this ruling is part of an inconsistent duo of cases, with the other being Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, in which the Supreme Court upheld different levels of government regulation of print media vs. broadcast media.[7] This has resulted in frequent criticism of the differing free speech protections for different types of mass media simply because of their delivery methods.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ Dennis Hevesi (February 2, 2010). "Dan Paul, 85, leading lawyer for press freedom". Boston Globe.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 US 241 (1974).
  3. ^ Tornillo v. Miami Herald Pub. Co., 287 So.2d 78 (Fla. Supreme Court, 1973).
  4. ^ North Dakota Bd. of Pharmacy v. Snyder's Drug Stores, Inc., 414 US 156 (1973).
  5. ^ a b "Reaffiffirming the Freedom of the Press: Another Look at Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo". Michigan Law Review. 73 (1): 186–214. 1974. doi:10.2307/1287775. JSTOR 1287775.
  6. ^ Fischman, Bruce D. (1975). "Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo: Editorial Discretion v. The Electorate's Right to Know - Freedom of the Press for Whom". Ohio Northern University Law Review. 2 (3): 562–569 – via HeinOnline.
  7. ^ Lipsky Jr., Abbott B. (February 1976). "Reconciling Red Lion and Tornillo: A Consistent Theory of Media Regulation". Stanford Law Review. 28 (3): 563–588. doi:10.2307/1228307. JSTOR 1228307 – via HeinOnline.
  8. ^ Emord, Jonathan W. (1992). "The First Amendment Invalidity of FCC Content Regulations". Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy. 6 (1): 93–216 – via HeinOnline.
  9. ^ Soriano, Josephine (Spring 2006). "The Digital Transition and the First Amendment: Is It Time to Reevaluate Red Lion's Scarcity Rationale?". Boston University Public Interest Law Journal. 15 (2): 341–356 – via HeinOnline.
  10. ^ Calvert, Clay (2022). "First Amendment Battles over-Anti-Deplatforming Statutes: Examining Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo's Relevance for Today's Online Social Media Platform Cases". New York University Law Review Online. 97: 1–17 – via HeinOnline.

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