The standard triumphalist narrative of NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN celebrates the Supreme Court's defense of free speech and press in the case's vindication of powerful journalistic institution. Ignored in this story is the story of the local defendants, civil rights leaders in Alabama who had their solvency threatened by the state courts' vindictive action against them. These defendants challenged the segregated proceedings used in court to affix liability to them—but the Supreme Court ignored their arguments and ignored the racial-equality and individual-rights aspects of the case. From their point of view, SULLIVAN might be so unalloyed a triumph.
The Other Sullivan Case, 1 N.Y.U. J.L. & Liberty 783 (2005)