Devin Nunes' Virginia SLAPP Suits Causing Virginia Legislators To Consider A New Anti-SLAPP Law

from the perhaps-something-good-will-come-of-this dept

We’ve been covering all the various SLAPP suits filed by Devin Nunes against his critics, journalists, political operatives, and (most famously) a satirical internet cow. As we’ve noted, despite Nunes being a Representative from California, and despite the fact that many of the people and companies he’s targeting are California-based, he’s filed most of the suits in Virginia state court. The reasons for this seemed fairly obvious to many commentators. Virginia has a very weak anti-SLAPP law. California has a very robust one.

We were actually a bit surprised to see Nunes file one lawsuit in California, but he quickly dropped it to file a related lawsuit… back in Virginia. His one other non-Virginia lawsuit was filed in Iowa which has no anti-SLAPP law at all.

And while these lawsuits all appear to be frivolous attempts to intimidate critics and journalists, they may actually have a potentially good result. Legislators in Virginia have been inspired by this abuse of the judicial system to consider beefing up Virginia’s weak anti-SLAPP law:

Sen. John Edwards,… who will chair the Senate Courts of Justice Committee in the 2020 legislative session, said he?s already hearing from lawyers who want Virginia?s anti-SLAPP law strengthened in the wake of Nunes? actions.

One is Roanoke lawyer Mark Cathey, chairman of the Roanoke School Board. He emphasized he was speaking for himself and not for the board.

?Our courts shouldn?t be taken advantage of this way,? Cathey told me regarding Nunes? lawsuits.

The article also notes that another legislator, Scott Surovell, is also Adam Parkhomenko’s lawyer, the one who wrote that wonderful motion to quash Nunes’ subpoena of Parkhomenko, pointing out that cows don’t have opposable thumbs.

A Virginia lawmaker who?s urging legislative action is Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. As an attorney, Surovell represents Adam Parkhomenko, a Democratic strategist whom Nunes has subpoenaed in an effort to learn the identity of the person behind Devin Nunes? Cow, a Twitter parody account that has lampooned the congressman.

Surovell called Nunes ?a serial SLAPP abuser? and added, ?There?s no question he specifically forum-shopped this SLAPP lawsuit [against Twitter] in Virginia.?

While these frivolous nuisance suits are a pain, and certainly unbecoming of a sitting member of Congress, it would be nice if the end result is the creation of another good state anti-SLAPP law.

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Comments on “Devin Nunes' Virginia SLAPP Suits Causing Virginia Legislators To Consider A New Anti-SLAPP Law”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah those silver linings...

If that’s what it takes to get another state to apply what will hopefully be a meaningful anti-SLAPP law then while Nunes will still be a hypocritical jackass he’ll at least have done something good, albeit entirely by accident.

Should this pass it will be interesting to see which state he’ll suddenly decide to start filing his SLAPP lawsuits in next, as he certainly won’t stick with one where he stands to face actual penalties for abusing the legal system for his own ends.

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Norahc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ah those silver linings...

When all the states, and the Feds have anti-SLAPP laws strong enough to deter Devin Nunes, he will become a libel tourist, just like Tony Robbins. Not that he will get any satisfaction there, either.

Maybe that’s what he was doing in Vienna…researching their defamation laws.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Of course the other side of this are the lawyers who target litigious individuals with defamation, knowing they’ll sue, profiting from the defense of this suit (which is why they want SLAPP laws), and calling anything their targets file to clear their name a SLAPP.

The problem is that others believed the defamation and committed some pretty horrible crimes (death threats etc.), which is when law enforcement had probable cause. Whether or not law enforcement "laughs at" the "known troll" or not does not eliminate their probable cause, at any time, to open a criminal investigation. Anyone in LE who wants to ruin these lawyers, or their operatives, can. Very easily.

The NOISE you’ll hear from the same few people is not the same as full transparency, which can only be had in a court of law. Do the same thing in the same way with the same people long enough and it’s easy to get caught, as I’m sure any prosecutor already knows. That’s why IRL criminals don’t commit the same crimes in the same place if they can avoid it, but this group is very easy to peg, and has been pegged.

Those who respond with expletive-laden denials over something they are supposedly uninvolved with would have no way of knowing if the above were true or not. They simply wouldn’t.

If we presume everyone is now a sociopath, since they are the ones who survive and thrive, then we have to presume that ALL conversation is simple manipulation, since literally no one can be trusted. That this was not the case in the past is now irrelevant. Since no one can be trusted, proving anything now requires full transparency and discovery.

This is the "gotcha" world everyone wanted, and now has. Enjoy.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, technically you started the fight.

At any rate, you’re the one making the claim. It’s incumbent upon you to provide evidence as the burden of proof is on you. Claims without evidence shall be disregarded.

If you want your claim to be taken seriously, provide evidence of people intentionally defaming someone for the purpose of being sued in a district that has a strong anti-SLAPP law and then earn money from the legal fees they win. Otherwise, your assertions shall be dismissed as pure, baseless speculation. To use the common phrase, put up or shut up.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 First rule of lying/bluffing...

No, but it is seriously funny, watching someone everyone knows is nothing but bluster and empty threats just throw out more of the same, as though more empty threats, hypocrisy and posturing will somehow convince people to take them seriously rather than continue to give them well earned mockery and laughter.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And to be clear, by "fight" I mean namecalling, since escalating is illegal. However, those who start fights and don’t escalate are cowards who couldn’t back up their mouths.

Libel laws were a replacement for dueling. In some states, dueling is still legal, though not against public officials (hmmmm….)

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:thanks

“Don’t start fights you aren’t prepared to finish”

I will keep that in mind.

Oh and word of advice?
Your commenting history would give any above decent lawyer who knows how to cache and date pages? All he needs to win against you with your paper trail.

Just letting you know.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I’ll name them in online reviews and they can sue me if I’m lying

Remember when a random troll did that to me? I was promoted shortly afterwards. Since no one would take a mad troll seriously AND I could prove it was trolling, there was no reason to sue.

If that’s your play, Jhon, know this: it’s been done before and it fell on its face. Now run along.

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Norahc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course the other side of this are the lawyers who target litigious individuals with defamation, knowing they’ll sue, profiting from the defense of this suit (which is why they want SLAPP laws), and calling anything their targets file to clear their name a SLAPP.

Citation needed

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

Don’t start debates you aren’t prepared to finish on national television or in front of any public audience.

…says the anonymous coward who keeps claiming he’s going to sue, arrest, and rape Mike Masnick and his family but never, ever, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever follows through or provides proof that he’s done what he says he’s going to do.

I don’t write checks my ass can’t cash. How rich is your ass, son?

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Mike’s conduct speaks for itself.

Well then, just pretend we’re idiots and spell it out for us, because we don’t see it. For that matter, I’m not even sure what conduct you’re even referring to in the first place, which I kinda need to know in order to pass any judgement on that conduct.

I don’t reveal my name to protect the stupid from being sued by me.

That’s… not how that works… at all. If you don’t want to sue the stupid, then just don’t. It’s that easy. Their knowing your real name changes absolutely nothing about that. Even if they “defame” you, no one is forcing you to sue them.

If you meant that it protects you from being defamed by them in a way that you could sue them over, that’s not exactly a good reason. For one thing, why do you assume that you’ll be defamed, anyway? Besides, I’m pretty sure that you can defame anonymous or pseudonymous individuals, too.

Anyway, the point is that you’re being a hypocrite for claiming that Stephen T. Stone may be hiding behind a pseudonym when you post completely anonymously. Even if you’re right that “Stephen T. Stone” is a pseudonym and you believe you have a good reason for posting anonymously, why wouldn’t Stephen also have a good reason? You simply don’t know. Right now, under the current facts, you have no reasonable basis for criticizing Stephen for possibly (not even probably) using a fake name when he posts that would not apply at least as much to you for posting anonymously. It’s both hypocritical and projection for you to do so.

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David says:

You know...

While these frivolous nuisance suits are a pain, and certainly unbecoming of a sitting member of Congress,

At the current point of time, it would start to appear that Nunes’ activities surrounding Trump’s impeachable actions are looking like something entirely more unbecoming of a sitting member of Congress.

I think that I finally get the obsession of the Republicans to demand Schiff being a witness in Trump’s impeachment procedures. I think the main reason is that if Schiff refuses because he does not have any involvement or knowledge outside of the impeachment proceedings themselves, the Republicans will use this as a "then Nunes won’t be witness and you cannot complain" pretense since Nunes’ role in the House committees is similar to Schiff’s.

Nunes already needed to get slapped on his fingers for trying to coordinate the White House defenses with the Mueller investigations, something entirely incompatible with his committee duties.

In this case it looks like he was pretty deeply involved with Trump’s moves now under impeachment investigation, so if this is further corroborated, I should think that he’d have to recuse himself and stand question and answer, never mind how many catcalls of "unfair" and "witch hunt" this will garner.

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hij (profile) says:

East Texas Style Law Suit Squatting

This will likely lead to some state going out of its way to make it easier for these kinds of nuisance law suits the same way the East Texas District went out of its way to attract patent trolls. A state with a small population and many empty offices would love to be the host for this kind of legal quackery. Until there is a national solution then no bovine will be safe let alone the one belonging to Rep. Nunes.

Sharur says:

Re: East Texas Style Law Suit Squatting

Did East Texas actually go out of its way to be attractive to patent trolls?

I thought it was more of a coincidental conglomeration? I heard it was a combination Texas’s general laws, a generally business friendly population to draw juries from, and a low caseload yielding a quicker trial time, that combined to make it our "troll lawsuit" capital district.

Is there something I have missed?

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JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They should if it’s a SLAPP suit. That’s the point here – poor people don’t launch frivolous lawsuits just to punish people for talking bad about them – they can’t afford to. The rich do it all the time since they have plenty of money to waste on such cases. They’ll even admit on camera that they knew they didn’t have a chance of winning, but they went ahead anyway to force the defendant to spend the time and money fighting their frivolous case.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Making elected officials either immune from defamation suits filed against them or unable to file defamation suits of their own makes no sense. Any lawsuits related to defamation should be brought before a court and judged on its merits, even if the judgment is ultimately “this suit is a SLAPP, it’s dismissed, and the plaintiff will pay the defendant’s legal fees”.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You going to shit up this thread like you did for Tony Robbins John boi? Still hasn’t met the gold patrician standard of Strike 3 getting their asses handed to them by another judge, you lost your shit up to 300 comments that day.

C’mon, Herrick. Bring it on! None of this "I know something you don’t know! I know something you don’t know!" kindergarten schoolboy-crush bullshit. Put some damn meat on this nothingburger you’ve been stringing along for over a year. Put names to paper or watch it flushed down the toilet like those masturbation, I mean mailing lists you fantasize over.

Or you could do as they say in Monty Python. "Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!" That’s called a quote, you know, something that fair use allows. Oooh, that was a low blow wasn’t it? Fair use doesn’t exist in your world! Who would ever sing Happy Birthday if they couldn’t pay Warner Bros. for the privilege?! Oh, the humanity! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Re: Sweet gameplay

That does make me wonder: What would Nunes’ Cow Simulator play as?

It’d be glitchy, sure, but what else?
Would it include a sign with Iowa crossed off and overlayed with California?
Would it include chasing down journalists? Or would you be helping journalists?
Running away from migrant workers?
Attempting to tweet, only to be stymied by the lack of thumbs?
Would it include an interlude with an overbearing woman claiming to be Nunes’ mom trying to smother him with condescending affection?

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