Xavier Cortada, “Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo,” oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2004

Read artist’s statement

Chapter 6: Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo

Freedom of Speech for Whom?

Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974)


Xavier Cortada’s painting Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo serves as a visual representation of the key issues before the Supreme Court in that case. Which voices are represented in the media? Who decides that question? Should the media represent a variety of voices or is media access controlled by media ownership? Miami Herald v. Tornillo asked the Supreme Court to decide these questions as a matter of First Amendment law. In doing so, the Court confronted two different visions of the First Amendment: one based in equality, which mandated media access for multiple voices, and one based in liberty, which protected the media from interference, including access by third parties. Rarely has the Supreme Court faced such a stark choice between First Amendment paradigms and rarely has it stated its view of the First Amendment as clearly as it did in its decision. How the case reached the Court, and how the Court decided it, are stories of constitutional and media history. They also involve two larger-than-life Florida figures, Pat Tornillo and the Miami Herald. Without them, this particular issue may never have reached the Supreme Court, at least not in this particularly stark way.


“Xavier Cortada‘s rendering of Miami Herald v. Tornillo raises the same questions as the case itself. Who’s mouths speak from this newspaper?  Do they represent a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Or are they effectively one voice, controlled by the entity that owns the pages? Who’s voice does the public here and who decides that question?”


Leslie C. Kendrick is Albert Clarke Tate, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Virginia. She holds a D.Phil. from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. A former clerk to Justice David Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, she has published extensively on the freedom of speech in journals such as Harvard Law Review, Columbia Law Review, and the Supreme Court Review.


Xavier Cortada is Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History. He grew up in Miami and holds degrees from the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law, and Graduate School of Business. His work merges art with other disciplines, including law, science, and politics.