Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962

Inc. John Henry Faulk v. Aware et al: 1962 - The Cold War Climate, Faulk Leads Fight Against Blacklisting, Trial Witnesses Hard To Find, Suggestions For Further Reading

libel damages lawyer plaintiff

Plaintiff: John Henry Faulk
Defendants: Aware, Inc., Vincent Hartnett, and Laurence A. Johnson
Plaintiff Claim: Damages for libel and conspiracy
Chief Defense Lawyer: Thomas A. Bolan
Chief Lawyer for Plaintiff: Louis Nizer
Judge: Abraham N. Geller
Place: New York, New York
Dates: April 23—
July 29, 1962
Verdict: Award for compensatory damages in the amount of $1 million, plus $2.5 million in punitive damages (at the time, the largest judgment ever returned in a libel suit)

SIGNIFICANCE: The verdict put an end to institutional blacklisting by private groups and individuals who claimed to be experts on Communism, "cleared" artists, and excluded artists from employment in the mass media.

In 1957, radio and television performer John Henry Faulk, a Texan with a penchant for folklore, fought back against blacklisting in the American work place by suing Aware, Inc. and two individuals for libel. In the tense Cold War years following World War II, fear of Communist subversion led to pressure on the movie and broadcasting industries to blacklist anyone suspected of the slightest past or present sympathy with Communist or leftist causes. Afraid of advertiser boycotts, the broadcasting companies buckled under the pressure from self-styled experts on Communism who insisted on their right to screen performers. Hundreds of careers were jeopardized or ruined and some victims of the practice were so distraught they committed suicide.

Despite bankruptcy and humiliation, Faulk persisted in his suit against the blacklisters through six years of pretrial motions, a dramatic trial, and numerous appeals that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

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