The Supreme Court yesterday left intact a $30,000 libel award won by a former Baltimore City Council candidate against the U.S. Labor Party.
The justices, without comment, refused to hear arguments that two Labor Party leaflets published in 1975 about Grenville Whitman contained mere "rhetorical hyperbole" and were not libelous.
Whitman, who until 1974 headed Baltimore's Man Alive Drug Treatment Program, was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1975 Democratic City council primary.
A longtime participant in Baltimore community groups, Whiman had been active in the anti-Vietnam war movement after his graduation from Harvard. The Man Alive program, which he joined as an employe in 1968, treated heroin addicts by using the drug methadone. The U.S. Labor Party opposes the methadone treatment for heroin addicts.
In an apparent attempt to defeat Whitman's city council candidacy, the party distributed a leaflet, "The Politics of Addiction." In it, Whitman was called a drug user while in the military, a member of the Nazi SS and a paranoid. The leaflet said he was involved in gunrunning, bombing and rape.
Whitman sued for libel on Aug. 15, 1975. A Baltimore court jury ruled that the material in the leaflets was untrue and that Whitman had been maliciously libeled. The jury ordered the U.S. Labor Party to pay Whitman $30,000 in damages. The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, last Jan. 31 rebuffed the party's appeal.