Opinions Relating to Orders - 2018

McKee v. Cosby

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied. JUSTICE THOMAS, concurring in the denial of certiorari. In December 2014, petitioner Kathrine McKee publicly accused actor and comedian Bill Cosby of forcibly raping her some 40 years earlier. McKee contends that Cosby’s attorney responded on his behalf by writing and leaking a defamatory letter. According to McKee, the letter deliberately distorts her personal background to “damage her reputation for truthfulness and honesty, and further to embarrass, harass, humiliate, intimidate, and shame” her. App. to Pet. for Cert. 93a. She alleges that excerpts of the letter were disseminated via the Internet and published by news outlets around the world. McKee filed suit in federal court for defamation under state law, but her case was dismissed. Applying New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254 (1964), and its progeny, the Court of Appeals concluded that, by disclosing her accusation to a reporter, McKee had “‘thrust’ herself to the ‘forefront’” of the public controversy over “sexual assault allegations implicating Cosby” and was therefore a “limitedpurpose public figure.” 874 F. 3d 54, 61–62 (CA1 2017) (citing Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U. S. 323, 345 (1974)). Under this Court’s First Amendment precedents, public figures are barred from recovering damages for defamation unless they can show that the statement at issue was made with “‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”