Every day is November 3, 2020 at the courthouse in DC. Federal judges in our nation’s Capitol will be forced to re-adjudicate the election, docketing increasingly lunatic motions until the end of time, or at least until they leave the bench. On the plus side, we’re no longer relitigating 2016.
Today’s wackadoo pleading comes courtesy of the One America Network, AKA OAN, AKA your Meemaw’s favorite channel now that Fox caved to the woke mob and acknowledged that Biden is actually president.
In August, Dominion Voting Systems sued OAN; its CEO Robert Herring; his son, Charles Herring, the president and “de facto news director”; and reporters Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb. The complaint, filed in US District Court in DC, alleges that OAN waged a campaign of defamation against the election technology company as part of a strategy to seize market share from Fox, which shied away from some of the more radical allegations being flogged by fringe figures such as Rudy Giuliani and his erstwhile colleague Sidney Powell.
OAN operates a DC bureau, which employs Rion and Bobb, who live in the District. Additionally, the Herrings take a personal interest in guiding the political reporting. Charles Herring is reputed to dictate the tone of coverage, sending out memos with demands such as “report all the things Antifa did yesterday” and flagging what are known internally as “H stories” that the boss wants emphasized.
Nevertheless, the Herrings argue in a motion first flagged by Insider that neither they nor their television network are subject to personal jurisdiction in DC. Sure the company and its owners control the content produced by the offices on Constitution Avenue, but actually they’re not doing business in the Capitol because “OAN’s Fixed Earth Station satellite broadcasting service” is located in San Diego, and content generated in DC is beamed out of California.
Dismissing the company and its officers would have the effect of stranding Bobb and Rion to face Dominion on their own, but it’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make.
Perhaps sensing the improbability of such an outcome, the defendants have a compromise proposal: They’d like to move the case to Colorado where Dominion is headquartered.
The company’s lawyers cite a defamation case in state court brought by Erik Coomer, a former Dominion employee who was smeared by various Trumpland lawyers, MAGA personalities, and rightwing reporters. Coomer, who made some intemperate social media posts criticizing Trump before the election, found himself in the middle of a maelstrom after a rightwing podcaster named Joe Oltmann claimed to have infiltrated an “antifa conference call” in September of 2020 where Coomer promised to sway the election for Biden. Because you know that antifa is big on organized meetings!
Oltmann never presented any evidence for this claim, but that didn’t stop Giuliani, Powell, and the OAN team from running with it. And they’re still at it today: “There long had been questions about Dominion’s security and reliability, but what Mr. Oltmann discovered suggested a new possibility: That there could be intent behind the problems that had been identified in Dominion’s voting systems, fueled by Dr. Coomer’s radical political beliefs.”
OAN emphasizes the similarities between the two lawsuits, including Coomer’s claim that some statements about Dominion were defamatory to him personally. Despite the fact that Dominion isn’t party to Coomer’s suit — although OAN promises to bring Dominion in as a third-party defendant in that case if it’s not dismissed — the network argues that the federal court must relinquish jurisdiction of the Dominion suit under Colorado River abstention.
Indeed Dominion does reference Coomer 19 times in its original complaint. But that complaint is 213 pages long, and most of it pertains to allegations aired on OAN which have nothing to do with Coomer. This included multiple programs on “Dominion-izing the Vote” hosted by Rion in DC — although perhaps the proper venue is space since her nutbaggery was bounced back to earth via satellite.
Undaunted by this, OAN soldiered on in its effort to convince the court that Colorado was not just one of many possible venues, but the only appropriate one.
“Dominion’s filing of this lawsuit in this District — rather than in Colorado, where Dominion is based, or California, where OAN is based — is apparent gamesmanship to avoid an anti-SLAPP motion in light of what has transpired in the Coomer Action,” they huff, alluding to Rion’s attempt to cast Coomer’s suit as an attempt to stifle free speech.
Astute observers will note that Rion, Bobb, and OAN might make the same arguments about lack of personal jurisdiction in Colorado that this very motion puts forth regarding DC where they actually live and conduct business. But OAN has an answer for that, and it is that Dominion should have intuited that the defendants would have agreed to jurisdiction because they didn’t contest it in the Coomer case.
As for Defendants, OAN did not challenge personal jurisdiction in the Coomer Action, and the remaining Defendants would stipulate to personal jurisdiction in Colorado for the purposes of this case.
And although exactly none of the defendants have any relationship to Colorado, it would be more convenient for them to be sued there since they’re already having to defend themselves in Colorado state court.
As Insider points out, OAN is not the first defendant to try to get out of a Dominion defamation claim in DC. Pillow Fluffer Mike Lindell made an even crazier play after Dominion sued him in DC last February. A month later he turned around and sued Dominion for defamatory RICO in Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, US District Judge Patrick Schiltz declined to reach across the country from Minnesota and rule that a case pending in DC constituted a RICO, and US District Judge Carl J. Nichols refused to send Dominion to Minnesota as per Lindell’s suggestion.
Speaking of Judge Nichols, guess whose docket is blessed with this garbage fire of a related case …
Tut tut, OAN, you know what they say about onanism and uselessly spilling your seed on the ground.
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.