A public figure, according to Gertz v. Robert Welch, is an individual who has assumed roles of especial prominence in the affairs of a society or thrust themselves into the forefront of particular public controversies to influence the resolution of the issues involved. Public figures also include individuals who have achieved pervasive fame or notoriety. Whether a party is a public figure is a question of law for the court. Public figures who wish to recover for injury to reputation must establish that the defendant acted with actual malice. Actual malice requires clear and convincing evidence that the defamatory falsehood was made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth.
[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]