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May 20, 2014
Attorney General hosts discussion on Goldmark “red-baiting” attack, resulting lawsuit

Marks 50th anniversary of one of the most significant trials in Washington state legal history

SEATTLE—The Attorney General’s Office is hosting a discussion with distinguished panelists regarding state Rep. John Goldmark’s 1962 “red-baiting” attack, and the historic lawsuit that followed.

The panel discussion will feature:

  • Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, son of plaintiff John Goldmark;
  • Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, who testified at the trial in support of John Goldmark;
  • King County Superior Court Judge Judith Ramseyer, former law clerk to Judge William Dwyer, John Goldmark’s attorney at the trial; and
  • Bob Ferguson, Attorney General of Washington State. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant trials in Washington state legal history. 

In 1962, state Rep. John Goldmark was the victim of a red-baiting attack that labeled him, and his wife Sally Goldmark, as “communist tools.” Red-baiting is the act of accusing an individual of being communist, or being sympathetic toward communism.

The attack destroyed Goldmark’s political career, but he responded by suing his accusers for libel—false statements that are damaging to a person's reputation.  On January 22, 1964, John Goldmark, and his wife Sally Goldmark, won $40,000 in the libel case against four individuals and a newspaper.

The trial drew national attention, vindicated the Goldmarks, and resulted in one of the largest libel awards in Washington history.

Almost immediately, however, the verdict was indirectly overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, limiting libel actions involving “political” speech.

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