Georgia Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Spring 1982), pp. 627-656


Whether it be contact between local government officers themselves, or between officer and citizen, or between officer and news media, or between media and government itself, the potential for defamatory publications is awesome. Historically, therefore, in the defamation law of any state, a considerable number of the cases typically arise out of the local government process. Indeed, no less a case than New York Times v. Sullivan itself is but modern confirmation of a traditional setting for defamation controversy. Georgia local government law likewise contains its share of defamation disagreements. At an early date, many of the state's common law defamation principles were reduced to statutory codification; litigation then reconveyed those principles to the appellate courts for additional interpretation. In the course of that interpretation, the twains of local government and defamation have been further joined. The aim of this brief effort is primarily to survey and illustrate rather than to analyze. Generally, the chronological treatment within each of the indicated contexts is an attempt to sketch a backdrop against which future developments might be considered. The extent to which Georgia courts have alluded to current constitutional developments in thsoe contexts will be noted, but much in that regard yet remains for evolution. As on other occasions, therefore, the objective is an additional clearing in the forest of Georgia local government law.