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CNN Wins a Round Against Devin Nunes in Federal Court Over Defamation Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28: House Select Committee on Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) attends a hearing concerning 2016 Russian interference tactics in the U.S. elections, in the Rayburn House Office Building, March 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. Every Republican on the committee signed a letter on Thursday demanding that committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) step down as chairman. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Cable News Network, Inc. (CNN) won a minor court battle against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Friday. The network successfully moved to have Nunes’s defamation lawsuit transferred from a Virginia federal court to a much closer venue in New York City.

The court initially notes a few structural oddities with Nunes’s filing that support their ultimate conclusion.

“Only CNN is listed as a named defendant,” the filing states. “For reasons neither explained nor readily apparent, the Amended Complaint lists, inter alia, Vicky Ward and Chris Cuomo as parties. Ward is a senior reporter for CNN, and Cuomo anchors Cuomo Prime Time, which airs on CNN. Nunes, Ward, and Cuomo are not alleged to live or work in Virginia.”

The California dairy farmer and congressman sued CNN in December of last year for $435 million dollars over an article that allegedly falsely claimed Nunes traveled to Vienna, Austria in order to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in order to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden in 2018.

Nunes maintains he did not visit Vienna–or anywhere in Austria–in 2018 and that he has never met with Shokin. A person who knows Shokin and Shokin himself subsequently disputed the claim.

“CNN is the mother of fake news,” the 47-page lawsuit filed in Virginia reads. “It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable. On November 22, 2019, CNN published a demonstrably false hit piece about [Nunes].”

Attorneys for the network filed to have the lawsuit transferred in February of this year. Nunes’s own legal team fought back–but CNN easily won out largely due to the lack of contacts between the parties, the story in question and where Nunes originally filed.

A 17-page memorandum and a one-page order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia tidily explained the rationale behind the Richmond-based court’s decision:

It is undisputed that the Eastern District of Virginia is not Nunes’s home forum. That Nunes “works at the Capitol within a few minutes’ drive of Virginia,” and “participates in oversight of the U.S. national security apparatas, including the intelligence-related activities of seventeen agencies, departments, and other elements of the United States Government, most of which is located in Virginia,” does not alter this fact. Additionally, as in [another case], the offending act at issue–the publication of the Article–not occur in Virginia. The Article was researched, written, and published in New York and, to some extent, Washington, D.C. Its subject matter has nothing to do with Virginia, and the Eastern District of Virginia is thus not the nucleus of the operative facts.

“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,” the court continued. “Thus, Nunes’s choice of forum is entitled only to slight deference. On the facts of this case, the SDNY is a more appropriate venue because the Article was primarily written there and CNN, Ward, and Cuomo reside there.”

CNN has also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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