Wednesday, 27 October 2004
Obituary: Richard M. Schmidt, Jr.
Sadly, yesterday I heard that Richard M. Schmidt, Jr. had passed away on the 17th. First Amendment buffs will remember Schmidt as a champion of the free press and counsel for the Miami Herald in Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, 94 S. Ct. 2831, 41 L. Ed. 2d 730 (1974). In that case, the Supreme Court struck down a Florida "right of reply" law that forced newspapers to publish responses to critical editorials. Chief Justice Burger wrote this memorable passage:
The Florida statute operates as a command in the same sense as a statute or regulation forbidding appellant to publish specified matter. Governmental restraint on publishing need not fall into familiar or traditional patterns to be subject to constitutional limitations on governmental powers. The Florida statute exacts a penalty on the basis of the content of a newspaper. The first phase of the penalty resulting from the compelled printing of a reply is exacted in terms of the cost in printing and composing time and materials and in taking up space that could be devoted to other material the newspaper may have preferred to print. It is correct, as [Tornillo] contends, that a newspaper is not subject to the finite technological limitations of time that confront a broadcaster but it is not correct to say that, as an economic reality, a newspaper can proceed to infinite expansion of its column space to accommodate the replies that a government agency determines or a statute commands the readers should have available. […]