A federal judge in Maryland that week followed on a prior warning to sanction a lawyer famous for representing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) In a series of unsuccessful defamation lawsuits against media firms, saying the attorney’s most up-to-date case against CNN was”frivolous” in nature.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennet, an appointee of George W. Bush, ruled the lawyer Steve Biss had”unreasonably and vexatiously” attempted to keep on litigating a lawsuit against the information community after the case had already been dismissed with prejudice for failing to state a claim in March. Despite that ruling, Biss filed an amended complaint which the court moved on to describe as”nothing more than a replica of the first complaint without a new material factual allegations.”
The first complaint — filed on behalf of Nunes’s senior aide Derek Harvey against CNN, former Rudy Giuliani business associate Lev Parnas, and Parnas’s lawyer Joseph Bondy — stemmed from a November 2020 CNN report which said Parnas was ready to supply Congress with testimony in connection with Donald Trump’s first impeachment proceeding. CNN reported that Parnas would testify, in consequence, that Nunes fulfilled with former prosecutor Victor Shokin”to talk digging up dirt of Joe Biden.”
From the initial criticism, Harvey alleged that the defendants falsely accused him of participating in an endeavor to aid and abet the commission of criminal, unethical, and dishonest conduct.
Harvey and Biss initially claimed that CNN left 20 defamatory statements, but later filed an amended complaint which narrowed that number down to five. But, Judge Bennet concluded that even the cut down criticism contained the same”manifest deficiencies” concerning the statements in query that lacked”defamatory meaning” and neglected to”plausibly allege material falsity” and”actual malice.”
“This Court determined Harvey and his counsel engaged in bad faith conduct in submitting the last-minute Amended Complaint in this instance, joining a’chorus’ of employees sanctioning one of their Plaintiff’s attorneys, Steven Biss,” the ruling said.
Judge Bennet concluded that CNN’s request for about $21,437 in lawyer’s fees was reasonable under the conditions.
“As this Court explained in its Memorandum Opinions ignoring the original Complaint and ultimately the Amended Complaint, this case involves the allegations of some public official seeking to collect compensation from a news organization because of its coverage of the first impeachment of former President Donald J. Trump,” Bennet wrote. “In submitting the Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, CNN’s counsel thoroughly demonstrated that, regardless of the Plaintiff’s alterations to the original Complaint, the remaining five supposedly defamatory statements failed to meet each of the needs of a defamation case.”
Bennet in February had said Harvey’s instance”closely mimicked” allegations in federal lawsuits which Biss filed on Nunes’ behalf.
Biss did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If he supplies a response, we will update this report.
Read the full ruling below.
[photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
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