CNN scores small victory in lawsuit brought by Devin Nunes as judge agrees to move case

Cable news giant CNN secured a small victory last week in a defamation lawsuit brought by U.S. Representative Devin Nunes of California.

On Friday, a federal judge in Virginia agreed to move the lawsuit to New York after determining there was “no logical connection” between the parties and the lawsuit’s original filing in Richmond.

It marks the first time a judge has agreed to move one of Nunes’ many lawsuits from one venue to another, the Fresno Bee reported.

Nunes, described by the New York Law Journal as a “staunch defender of President Donald Trump in the Congress,” sued CNN after the news organization published a story last November allegedly linking Nunes to Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin during an off-the-books trip to Vienna in 2018.

CNN said it received information about the meeting from an attorney representing an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer and advisor Rudy Giuliani. The meeting between Nunes and Shokin focused on “digging up dirt on Joe Biden,” the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, CNN reported.

Nunes disputed the CNN report, telling another news publication the accusation was “demonstrably false.” He later released photos he said proved he was not in Vienna when CNN’s source claimed he visited.

Nunes is a highly-litigious politician whose targets for lawsuits have included  Hearst and the magazine Esquire; newspaper giant McClatchy Corporation and its subsidiary paper the Fresno Bee; political opposition research firm Fusion GPS; and a parody Twitter account whose author masquerades as a fictitious cow. In the latter suit, Nunes filed against Twitter in an apparent attempt to unmask whoever was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the account.

The congressman has filed most of his lawsuits over the last three years in Virginia. In the lawsuit against CNN, Judge Robert E. Payne warned Nunes and his attorney against the apparent practice of “forum shopping” — a practice where litigants try to have their case heard in a certain court based on an apparent belief that a judge or jury might rule in their favor.

“The Court cannot stand as a willing repository for cases which have no real nexus to this district,” Payne wrote in his decision.

Nunes, who represents the Fresno area, has not filed any of his defamation lawsuits in California. The exact reasons for this are unclear, though legal experts suspect Nunes may find the odds against him due to a state law that limits lawsuit over free speech and expression.

The law, known as Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), allows defendants to move for a quick dismissal as well as any legal fees associated with responding to a lawsuit.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Virginia passed separate bills — Senate Bill 375 and House Bill 759 — mirroring California’s Anti-SLAPP law earlier this year. But when it came time for each chamber to hear the other’s Anti-SLAPP bill, both chamber re-wrote the other’s bill, and the overall proposal stalled.

State Senator John Edwards pledged to revive the bill during next year’s legislative session.

After news stories of inconsistencies, law firm representing Tara Reade drops her as client

An attorney who agreed to represent Tara Reade after she accused presidential candidate and sitting senator Joe Biden of sexual assault has dropped her as a client following numerous news stories describing inconsistencies in her education and employment background.

Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney who represents clients engaged in various employment-related litigation, said on Friday his firm’s decision to part ways with Reade was not a reflection on whether Reade’s accusations against Biden were true or false.

The decision to part ways with Reade was made on May 20, Wigdor told CNN, one day after the news organization published a lengthy exposé that revealed contradictions in Reade’s education history. News of the firm’s decision to drop Reade as a client was first published Friday by the New York Times.

Wigdor had agreed to represent Reade after the woman came forward in March with an accusation against Biden stemming from her work as a staff employee in his senate office in the early 1990s. During a podcast interview, Reade claimed Biden sexually assaulted her.

Biden has denied the accusation.

Since March, political reporters have questioned Reade and Biden about the allegation, with one journalist uncovering a phone call made to CNN’s Larry King Live in August 1993 that appeared to corroborate some of Reade’s story.

But other information has surfaced that cast doubt on Reade’s credibility. On Tuesday, CNN published a report detailing the result of a lengthy investigation into Reade’s background and statements, including her assertion that she graduated with an Associate’s Degree from the Seattle campus of Antioch University.

Officials at Antioch University acknowledge Reade took some classes in the early 2000s but did not graduate from the school. Reade later said a legal name change required her to graduate from the school through a special program, but Antioch University officials said no such program existed.

That could prove problematic for dozens of criminal cases in Monterey County, California in which Reade testified as an expert witness. As part of her testimony, Reade — then known as Alexandra McCabe — offered details about her education and employment background; several times, she testified that she received a degree from Antioch University before graduating with a separate law degree from Seattle University.

In some cases, Reade also testified that she worked as a legislative assistant while employed by Biden’s office. But employment records obtained by the New York Times revealed Reade’s actual position was that of a staff assistant, not a legislative assistant. A legislative assistant is a more senior position compared to that of a staff assistant, the newspaper said.

On Wednesday, the Monterey County Weekly said defense attorneys were now combing through dozens of criminal convictions to see if those cases can be re-opened.

Those attorneys include county public defenders who are in the process of making a list of clients whose cases involved Reade’s testimony, the Times reported.

“An expert can only testify in certain circumstances,” Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel told the newspaper. “One of them is that they have expertise above the regular person. The jury is entitled to hear your qualifications.”