On August 23, a Virginia judge dismissed Rep. Devin Nunes’ (CA-R) $250 million dollar libel suit against Republican political strategist Elizabeth A. Mair.
Nunes sued Mair in March 2019 for allegedly conspiring with his political enemies to spread false information about him before he ran for reelection in 2018. Among Mair’s statements that Nunes’ claimed were defamatory was a tweet about his financial involvement with a California-based wine company, Alpha Omega. One of Alpha Omega’s employees sued the company in 2016 for allegedly hiring underage sex workers for a yacht fundraiser in 2015.
The original complaint, filed in Henrico County Court, also named Twitter and two anonymous online writers, Devin Nunes’ Cow, @DevinCow, and Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom, @NunesAlt, for participating in the conspiracy to harm his reputation. Twitter was able to have its name removed from the lawsuit quickly due to Section 230, a federal law that gives Internet platforms immunity from liability for third-party content. Although Nunes has not dropped his case against @DevinCow and @NunesAlt, their anonymity has made it difficult for him to serve them with a complaint.
In his ruling, Judge John Marshall explained that none of Mair’s statements were defamatory, and that “the facts alleged fail to support a reasonable inference that Mair made any of the alleged statements with the requisite intent of ‘actual malice’.” Marshall also wrote that Nunes failed “to adequately allege that Mair entered into any conspiratorial agreement.”
According to The Fresno Bee, Nunes has filed ten lawsuits since 2019 against people, news organizations, and entities. Nunes had two lawsuits filed against Mair: the one in Henrico County, and another suit in Albemarle County Circuit Court that is ongoing.
When asked about the Virginia ruling, Mair told the Fresno Bee that she hopes she’ll be dismissed in the Albemarle County court suit.
“It is ridiculous that we have had a sitting United States congressman suing a fake farmyard animal, let alone me, for being mean to him on Twitter, which the First Amendment clearly protects,” Mair said. “It is also extremely disturbing that Rep. Nunes has, on my read, appeared to use litigation as a cudgel to try to stifle free speech in such a wanton manner.”