Defamation Lawsuit Against ‘OAN’ News Moves Forward

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Federal Judge Carl Nichols has upheld a sweeping lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems against the far-right and pro-Trump media outlet One America News and other defendants associated with the outlet over lies about the 2020 presidential election and Dominion’s role in non-existent fraud during that election.

Defendants in the case wanted (among other possibilities) the case dismissed because of a supposedly parallel proceeding in Colorado court from Eric Coomer, who formerly worked at Dominion and was specifically named in unsubstantiated claims about imaginary fraud orchestrated by the company. However, the claims over which Coomer and Dominion have brought their challenges are different, Coomer no longer even works at Dominion and never legally represented the company as an entity in court, and defendants in the Coomer and Dominion cases only partly overlap. In his ruling dismissing those arguments, Nichols noted that ordinarily federal courts have strict standards that must be met before dismissing a case because of ostensibly corresponding legal proceedings in state court, and those standards simply weren’t met in this instance.

Federal courts hold a “virtually unflagging obligation… to exercise the jurisdiction given them,” the judge noted, quoting an earlier case. Among other considerations, the judge outlined how dismissing a federal case in connection to something covering similar procedural ground in state court can only be undertaken under the relevant standards when the applicable state courts can fully deal with lingering challenges. Alongside the other issues, Dominion also replied in court that federal legal precedent established a hold — not dismissal — as the potentially available option for a case in which damages are sought, and Dominion is seeking such an outcome.

“When asked to provide their best evidence for the proposition that Dominion and Coomer are the same party, counsel for Defendants responded, “My best argument for that is that Dr. Coomer says he is Dominion,”” Nichols noted in his new ruling. “Coomer may have said that, but his saying it does not make it so.” Arguments from the plaintiffs also included a back-up push to move the case to federal court in Colorado, but Nichols found that contentions presented by the defendants were insufficient in showing how Dominion could have previously filed the lawsuit there. “Yet Defendants did not even try to show that Dominion could have properly filed this suit in Colorado,” the judge said. “For starters, Defendants’ opening brief offers zero analysis on whether a Colorado court could exercise personal jurisdiction over them… Defendants also do not devote a single sentence—in either their opening brief or their reply—to the question of venue… Defendants do not identify any conduct in Colorado that gives rise to Dominion’s claims.”

The Herrings — two members of the same family who are involved in the business leadership of One America News — and the network itself also challenged the jurisdiction held by D.C. federal court over them, but Nichols dismissed those arguments on multiple grounds. “According to the Complaint, the Herrings exercised complete control over the Dominion-related content produced at OAN’s D.C. bureau,” the judge noted. On OAN, the deceptive statements regarding Dominion were numerous and widespread, and in his new ruling Nichols cited false allegations from Rudy Giuliani, past OAN reporter Christina Bobb (who has also done some legal work for Trump), and Mike Lindell of MyPillow.