A federal judge in Virginia last Friday told Rep. Devin Nunes (R) that his lawsuit against the Washington Post could not proceed in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). The judge accused the California congressman of “forum shopping” his lawsuit due to the court’s expedited litigation schedules, colloquially known as the “rocket docket.”
The 19-page opinion from Senior U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne, issued in response to a motion from the Post, said Nunes and his counsel, attorney Steven Biss, had already been warned several times against filing lawsuits pertaining to conduct with no connection to the EDVA.
“[T]he Court has significant concerns about forum shopping, especially given that Nunes works in Washington, D.C., not Virginia,” Payne 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. The ‘rocket docket’ certainly attracts plaintiff(s), but the Court must ensure that this attraction does not dull the ability of the Court to continue to act in an expeditious manner.”
In the filed complaint, Nunes and Biss claimed that the Washington Post defamed Nunes by reporting that the congressman told President Donald Trump about an intelligence report that said Russia wanted to see him re-elected.
Nunes said that he didn’t know “what planet the Washington Post is on,” but that the publication would have “an opportunity in federal court in the next couple weeks to explain who their sources are, because I’m going to have to take them to court because I didn’t go to the White House. I didn’t talk to President Trump, Harris. So, this is the same garbage.”
What sources? The ones cited by WaPo’s Shane Harris and the other bylines in “the WaPo Hit Piece” headlined, “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected.” Harris was named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The complaint said Harris was “well-known as a puppet of the FBI and CIA, employed to selectively leak talking points and classified information and to smear targets.”
Judge Payne rejected Nunes’s contention that the EDVA was an appropriate venue based on the claim that the Post and its journalists had engaged in “continuous and systematic business in Virginia.”
“The Eastern District of Virginia is not Nunes’s home forum, and there is no logical connection between the events in this case and this district,” Payne wrote. “It is true that the Article could have been accessed on the Internet and spread through social media in Virginia. However, those tethers to Virginia are insufficient to warrant according Nunes’s choice of forum any significant preference.”
It was the second time on the same day that Judge Payne ordered one of Nunes’s myriad defamation lawsuits to be bounced out Virginia’s courts. As previously reported by Law&Crime, Payne also told Nunes and Biss they could not sue CNN in EDVA over an article that allegedly falsely claimed the congressman traveled to Vienna, Austria to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin over possible dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Washington Post case was ordered transferred to the District of Columbia; the CNN case was ordered transferred to the Southern District of New York.
Read Payne’s full decision below.
[image via ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images]
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