He’s baaaaaaack. Steven Biss, a baffling star libel lawyer, has gotten into a different news cycle like the Kool-Aid Man. Only this time, it’s Bite who swallows a big, cold glass of CNN’s legal bills.
Well, Biss and also his client Derek Harvey, a former military intelligence officer who appears to have collapsed badly after falling with a bad crowd on the House Intelligence Committee. In his position as the right-hand man of Rep. Devin Nunes, Harvey managed to get embroiled in the Ukraine impeachment scandal by working with Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Victoria Toensing in the back room of the Trump Hotel in DC to smear Joe and Filth Hunter Biden.
In November 2019, CNN reported that Nunes took a taxpayer-funded trip to Ukraine in late 2018 to tarnish Biden’s intelligence committee.
The coverage was very clearly relayed to Lev Parnas, who was not named in Harvey’s lawsuit against CNN. The case was dismissed for failure to state a claim and Harvey was given permission to amend his complaint to allege actual defamation.
And he changed the complaint … kind of. Harvey appears to have put out eleven pages of howling rhetoric, but unfortunately he hasn’t replaced it with references to legally defamatory statements.
US District Judge Richard Bennett described it as “nothing more than a repetition of the original complaint with no new substantive allegations” and believed that “Plaintiff Harvey and his attorney inappropriately and maliciously expanded this matter inappropriately and angrily filed a last-minute amended complaint which in no way attempted to remedy the deficiencies previously raised by this court. “
Is it good if the court calls your filing angry? Probably not.
Yesterday, Judge Bennett imposed sanctions on Harvey, Biss and local attorney Joseph Meadows of $ 21,437.50 in legal fees and $ 52.26 in costs and expenses related to drop kicking the (barely) modified complaint. The court was particularly unimpressed by Biss’ argument that CNN’s attorneys should have had only a dummy attorney on a one-sided response: “Eh, just like last time, Your Honor.”
Plaintiff’s local attorney, Joseph Meadows, alleges that CNN’s second motion for dismissal was “the same in substance and substance” as the defendant’s original motion, and that CNN “could have made a unilateral motion for dismissal,” which was passed by Referring to arguments in the previous move. (ECF No. 53.) This argument is unfounded. First, as CNN aptly noted: “[t]Developing well-researched, well-written, and effective briefs is not excessive or unnecessary just because the [other party] believes the memoranda could have done the same job with fewer pages. (ECF No. 56 in 2 (citing Xiao-Yue Gu, 127 F. Supp. 2d in 766).) Furthermore, the Meadows de minis argument only underscores the recklessness of the plaintiff’s changes to his original complaint.
Judge Bennett notes that he is joining “a” chorus “of courts sanctioning one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Steven Biss,” citing the most recent clusterf * ckery on the 4th Circuit in which Biss succeeded to escape sanctions to prove that the Wall Street Journal defamed a Russian academic. He leaves out the mention of Biss’s sweeping success (AHEM) suing a Twitter cow, Fusion GPS (on slander and RICO!), The Washington Post, CNN, Esquire, and McClatchy. Nor does it refer to Biss’ recent efforts on behalf of conservative lemonade enthusiast Dan Bongino, which also resulted in attorney fees being awarded.
I think that’s what “chorus” implies.
If we ever get federal law against SLAPP, they should name it after that guy.
Harvey v Cable News Network, Inc. [Docket via Court Listener]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore, where she writes on law and politics.