Another Day, Another Bogus SLAPP Suit From Devin Nunes And Steven Biss

from the pain-and-suffering dept

A week after promising yet another defamation lawsuit, Devin Nunes and his lawyer Steven Biss have delivered, suing the Washington Post and reporter Shane Harris for defamation in Virginia federal court. Once again, I'll remind you that Virginia has a very limited anti-SLAPP law, though that may be changing soon thanks, in part, to Nunes filing so many SLAPP suits in Virginia.

This latest lawsuit is more of the same. He's seeking $250,350,000 (or basically the same amount Jeff Bezos paid for the entire paper a few years back) for both compensatory and punitive damages for (I'm not joking): "insult, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental suffering, injury to his reputation, special damages, costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses." Remember when Devin Nunes pretended to be a free speech supporter? Now he thinks that a newspaper owes him basically its entire value for insults and embarrassment. Come on.

As is typical of a Biss LOLsuit, the complaint is more performative for Nunes supporters than it is legally persuasive for a court of law. It includes plenty of hyperbole and silly insinuations about Bezos and the Washington Post, like the following:

Billionaire, Jeff Bezos (“Bezos”), purchased WaPo in 2013 for the purpose of using WaPo’s mighty pen to influence Federal elections. Bezos failed to defeat the GOP in 2016, in spite of WaPo’s notoriously libelous reporting. Bezos’ WaPo heavily promoted the Russian “collusion” hoax between 2017 and 2019, in spite of the fact that there was no evidence that any member of the Trump campaign colluded with any “Russian” to influence the 2016 Presidential Election. This is 2020. As this case illustrates, Bezos and his printing press remain desperate to defame the President of the United States and his allies in Congress. This defamation must end.

Yeah, okay. As with all of Nunes' other lawsuits, this one stands basically no chance at all, but again calls into significant question Nunes' competency as an elected official. He's now sued multiple journalists and news organizations, along with political consultants and (of course) satirical Twitter accounts, all for daring to report on his activities. If he can't take that, he doesn't deserve to be an elected official -- especially not in a country with the free speech traditions of the United States. Nunes swore to defend and protect the Constitution, which includes the 1st Amendment, and he's making a mockery of that by rushing to the courts, demanding well over a billion dollars total, because the news has reported critically on him and his activities.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Legal Center may need to update its letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics, asking it to explore how the hell Nunes is paying for Biss' services, because to date, there is no clear disclosure for how Biss is being paid, and House rules do not allow free legal services without an explicit Legal Expense Fund. And, as CLC notes, Nunes does not appear to have filed the paperwork for that to occur.

In the meantime, while these lawsuits will likely get thrown out and are increasingly laughable, they do create a very real chilling effect. Even dealing with a bogus SLAPP suit takes time and money -- and many news organizations may shy away from reporting critically on Nunes in fear of having to deal with such a lawsuit, even if they know they'll succeed in the end. And that, of course, is a key reason why we see so many SLAPP suits. Even if they fail in court, they can still stifle speech.

One hopes that Nunes' colleagues in Congress might see how he's using the court system to stifle criticism and think that maybe, finally, we need a federal anti-SLAPP law.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, anti-slapp, defamation, devin nunes, free speech, shane harris, slapp, steven biss, virginia
Companies: washington post


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 9:46am

    Nunes swore to defend and protect the Constitution … and he's making a mockery of that

    Like leader, like bootlicker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 9:51am

    One hopes that ...

    One hopes that Nunes' colleagues in Congress might see how he's using the court system to stifle criticism and think that maybe, finally, we need a federal anti-SLAPP law.

    One also hopes that geneticists are able to create unicorns, complete with all of the magical powers that are traditionally attributed to them.

    I leave it as an exercise to the reader to guess which of the above is more likely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    arp2 (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 10:10am

    Discovery for Funding Sources

    It's been a while since I've done litigation, but can't you get information on who is funding litigation as a part of discovery?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 10:12am

    I know a couple Russian-Americans and you'd be surprised what the pilgrims decendants can be to the czars if they so chose.

    Anti-Russian sentiment has gone a bit far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 10:31am

      Until the U.S. is in another standoff with Russia/Russian allies that might result in an actual nuclear war? No. No, anti-Russian sentiment has not gone “a bit far”.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Anti-Russian sentiment has gone a bit far.

      When you interfere with elections by misinforming simpletons who don't know any better, you better believe that those who aren't the product of generations of inbreeding are going to have some hatred for them.

      Fuck those commie bastards.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Annonymouse, 3 Mar 2020 @ 4:44pm

        Re: Re:

        You do realize or maybe you don't, but the USofA through it's three letter agencies and various corporate agents has been sticking their fingers in every election everywhere they have access, be they freind or foe. Heck they have been screwing over allies and neighbors for nigh on two centuries.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 10:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, and we shouldn't be doing it either.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2020 @ 9:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So then I just need to accept trump as a consequence of that?

          Yeah, no.

          Fuck trump and the rest of those commie pigs who enable him and brainwash the dumbest in this country.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 4:52pm

      Re:

      I know a couple Russian-Americans and you'd be surprised what the pilgrims decendants can be to the czars if they so chose.

      Then by all means, tell us instead of trying to assert your moral superiority by being a massive cocktease.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 10:28am

    Billionaire, Jeff Bezos (“Bezos”), purchased WaPo in 2013 for the purpose of using WaPo’s mighty pen to influence Federal elections. Bezos failed to defeat the GOP in 2016, in spite of WaPo’s notoriously libelous reporting. Bezos’ WaPo heavily promoted the Russian “collusion” hoax between 2017 and 2019, in spite of the fact that there was no evidence that any member of the Trump campaign colluded with any “Russian” to influence the 2016 Presidential Election. This is 2020. As this case illustrates, Bezos and his printing press remain desperate to defame the President of the United States and his allies in Congress. This defamation must end.

    Becaise tarting out with ridiculous and desperate lies from paragraph 1 like that is such an effective way to convince the judge your case isn't vexatious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 Mar 2020 @ 11:29am

    Well, yeah.

    In the meantime, while these lawsuits will likely get thrown out and are increasingly laughable, they do create a very real chilling effect.

    It's sort of being asked to a game of chess against someone in the final phase of rabies.

    It should definitely increase your odds of winning, but you'd rather not be in the game at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 3 Mar 2020 @ 12:07pm

    Citizens United?

    Billionaire, Jeff Bezos (“Bezos”), purchased WaPo in 2013 for the purpose of using WaPo’s mighty pen to influence Federal elections.

    Apparently, Nunes doesn't believe the Supreme Court made the correct decision in Citizens United.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 12:13pm

      For conservatives like Nunes, SCOTUS only makes correct decisions when those decisions can’t ever bite conservatives in general on the ass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:49pm

      'Hey, you're only allowed to do that for MY side!'

      What makes that particular bit of whining all the funnier is that I can all but guarantee that he has no problem with the likes of Fox 'influencing Federal elections' and sees their actions in that area as perfectly acceptable expression of their free speech since they support him and his party.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 12:40pm

    Sticks and stones.

    Mental Suffering..
    For being an idiot?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:17pm

    Ever think maybe, JUST MAYBE Devin Nunes is money laundering?

    He claims to give for example 500,000 to his lawyers for each ridiculous "case", but in reality it's just laundering drug money?

    And he's prepared to take a loss on each case, as the money is effectively cleaned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:23pm

    You didn't cover obama's SLAP. It's not precisely SLAP you're against, just Republicans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:37pm

      Did Obama file an actual lawsuit? If not, what he did isn’t a SLAPP.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:38pm

      Re:

      Liar.

      Several commenters did in fact address that the last time it was brought up(by yourself I would guess), namely by pointing out that simply asking someone not to run something does not a SLAPP suit make, so either you simply dumped the comment and then never bothered to check it again to see what the replies were or you saw the replies that refuted the claim and are simply repeating it as though they were never made.

      So, lazy, not interested in actually having a discussion, or dishonest, which are you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 11:16pm

      Re:

      You didn't cover obama's SLAP. It's not precisely SLAP you're against, just Republicans.

      Can you point me to a complaint filed by Obama? I don't see one.

      In the meantime, I did write about a SLAPP lawsuit filed by a former Presidential candidate from 2016:

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200113/18320443724/dear-larry-lessig-please-dont-file-slap p-suits.shtml

      That was just a month and a half ago, so, uh, no. My concern over SLAPPs has nothing to do with partisan politics. Indeed, we've covered SLAPPs all over the political spectrum. If Obama actually filed a SLAPP suit, we'd cover it too.

      Your apology is accepted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:55pm

    Gotta get me some of that

    One hopes that Nunes' colleagues in Congress might see how he's using the court system to stifle criticism and think that maybe, finally, we need a federal anti-SLAPP law.

    They could respond in that fashion, sure, just like I could wake up to find a literal pot of leprechaun gold at the food of my bed, but I imagine most of them will look at him weaponizing the courts and turning legal filings into PR stunts for the gullible and start thinking how that looks like a mighty tempting and effective thing for them to get in on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 3 Mar 2020 @ 1:57pm

    calls into significant question Nunes' competency

    But, I don't think it's as an elected official. 🤯

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 2:15pm

      Re: calls into significant question Nunes' competency

      Nah. Nunes is demonstrating all of the current qualifications for federal political office. If you accept that a competent politician is one who lies, does the bidding of their paymasters rather than their constituents, works tirelessly to divide the country, talks out both sides of their mouth and has no idea what the constitution and its amendments say then Nunes is infinitely competent. Maybe he should run for president. He obviously has all the right skills.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 3 Mar 2020 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re: calls into significant question Nunes' competency

        Oh come on, you are being unfair to Nunes here. Clearly someone cannot be talking out both sides of their mouth while bootlicking.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 3:34pm

    Screw Nunez, filthy traitor couldn't explain what the constitution is much less defend it. He belongs in jail along with all republican senators who stay silent while he peddles his BS lawsuits. Some oath to the constitution that is if he never bothered to read the damned thing in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    teka, 4 Mar 2020 @ 5:36am

    Some people give the perfectly wonderful communities of bootlicking fetishists, service bottoms and uniform fetishists a bad name with their elected antics.

    For shame. And not the good kind of shame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 4 Mar 2020 @ 8:00am

    Follow the money...

    ... has Peter Thiel been visiting Nunes, lately?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2020 @ 3:08pm

    Devin Nunes is now actively trying to murder elderly people, and those with disabilities:

    https://thehill.com/homenews/house/487666-nunes-urges-americans-to-stop-panicking-its- a-great-time-to-just-go-out-if?fbclid=IwAR2E0ximGY5j4aaO-hRO0Tb1EL-T9WSrUHjdAFagyFwQ05l8dVuZvihBWzM

    The man's a disgrace and a monster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2020 @ 8:26pm

      No

      Not to defend Nunes, but you've completely misrepresented your own link - and even if he had said what you implied, speech is not murder.

      There's plenty of actual facts that make Nunes look bad; you don't need to bother lying and misrepresenting the law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.