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Pearson v. Dodd

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Citation Edit

Pearson v. Dodd, 410 F.2d 701 (D.C. Cir.) (full-text), cert. denied, 395 U.S. 947 (1969).

Factual Background Edit

This case involved a charge of invasion of privacy by Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut against two Washington columnists, Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. Two of the Senators employees copied material from his files and passed the photocopies on to two former Dodd employees, who gave them to Anderson. Although Anderson knew how the material had been obtained, he and Pearson wrote six stories that damaged Dodd's reputation and political career.[1]

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

Judge J. Skelly Wright wrote that the tort of intrusion, unlike any other type of tort for invasion of privacy, does not require that the information be published. "The tort is completed with the obtaining of the information by improperly intrusive means. . . . Where there is intrusion, the intruder should generally be liable whatever the content of what he learns..”[2] Judge Wright also discussed the purpose of extending tort liability to include cases of intrusion:

We approve the extension of the tort of invasion of privacy to instances of intrusion, whether by physical trespass or not, into spheres from which an ordinary man in a plaintiff's position could reasonably expect that the particular defendant should be excluded. Just as the Fourth Amendment has expanded to protect citizens from government intrusions where intrusion is not reasonably expected, so should tort law protect citizens from other citizens. The protection should not turn exclusively on the question of whether the intrusion involves a technical trespass under the law of property. The common law, like the Fourth Amendment, should "protect people, not places."[3]


  1. 410 F.2d at 703.
  2. Id. at 704-05.
  3. Id. at 704.

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