Personal Injury Law
What are examples of public officials and public figures?
Public officials generally refer to those individuals who hold office, such as political figures. A president, governor, mayor, senator or representative would certainly qualify as a public official.
Public figures refer to those individuals who are people in the public eye and have achieved fame or notoriety. For example, sports stars, movie stars, entertainers, and national broadcasters would qualify as public figures.
The law also recognizes so-called “limited purpose” public figures—persons who have not achieved pervasive fame enough to be all-purpose public figures, but who are public figures for a particular issue or controversy. This is a difficult area of the law, as many persons may become well known in connection with a particular contentious issue but are not considered public figures. In Time v. Firestone (1975; see LegalSpeak above), the U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that the former wife of a man in one of the country’s wealthiest families was not a limited purpose public figure.