In a new amicus brief, Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that Nunes cannot legally pursue the identity of the anonymous speaker without first proving he has a valid defamation claim. Without meeting this legal standard, they write, the court could threaten people's First Amendment right to anonymous speech.
The California representative has filed three separate defamation lawsuits this year. In his third, Nunes claims that CNN published a “demonstrably false hit piece” about an alleged trip the congressman took to Austria to meet with an ex-Ukranian official.
The lawsuit argues that Lizza's widely read article, "Devin Nunes’s Family Farm is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret," is a "legion of lies" and that Lizza published it with the specific intent to harm the congressman’s reputation.
Nunes is accusing Twitter of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory” to undermine the public’s confidence in him, thereby benefiting his political opponents.
On December 24, 2020, a federal judge dismissed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post that was filed earlier in the year by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The suit, filed on March 3, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Nunes was defamed in a Post article that referred to a conversation Nunes had with President Donald Trump about an intelligence briefing.
The judge is asking the family to submit a new complaint based only on whether the family's dairy farm knowingly hired undocumented workers. The new complaint will also have to contain a new argument showing actual malice.
Public officials using libel suits as a weapon against the press is nothing new. In the time of Times v. Sullivan, southern officials had brought nearly $300 million in libel actions against the press. For reference, Nunes alone has brought just over $900 million in defamation claims in a twelve-month period.
"[T]he Court has significant concerns about forum shopping," U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge Robert E. Paynes wrote. "As the Court has explained to Plaintiff's counsel on numerous occasions, the Court cannot stand as a willing repository for cases which have no real nexus to this district.”