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.
The judge wrote that California Representative Devin Nunes failed to state adequate claims and to request a retraction before he filed his lawsuit against CNN.
The new law broadly protects speech on public matters and ensures that defendants targeted with SLAPP lawsuits recover legal fees.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge tossed a defamation lawsuit against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after finding the plaintiff's claims were based on hearsay.
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.”
In September 2019, Justin Fairfax sued CBS over its interviews and subsequent coverage of two sexual assault claims against him. This week, a U.S. District Judge dismissed his claims, citing no evidence that CBS' coverage would have led a reasonable viewer to assume they were true or that the organization endorsed the women's allegations.
Current loopholes in the state's law have lured a number of individuals into using Virginia courts to intimidate their critics. For example, of the six defamation complaints Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) filed in the past year, four were filed in Virginia.