The West

Judge allows Devin Nunes to sue Twitter, fake cow in Virginia court

Rep. Devin Nunes can sue social media giant Twitter in Virginia, a judge ruled this week when he rejected the San Francisco company’s argument that the California congressman should not be able to pursue a lawsuit against it in the southern state.

Judge John Marshall denied Twitter’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit from the Henrico County Circuit Court on Wednesday, as first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. One of the defendants Nunes is suing in the case is a former Virginia resident.

“The plaintiff came from California to Virginia to pursue claims that arose in Virginia against defendants who were in Virginia,” Marshall’s letter says, according to the Times-Dispatch. “The causes of action in this case are interdependent and for the other reasons in this opinion the court will not dismiss the action against Twitter” on claims of inconvenience.

The lawsuit was the first of five Nunes, R-Tulare, filed this year alleging that various groups conspired against him while he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

In the Twitter case, filed in March, Nunes alleges the social media company enabled Republican political strategist Liz Mair and anonymous writers behind two parody social media accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom to defame him and damage his 2018 re-election bid against Democrat Andrew Janz.

Nunes won his seat in by about five percentage points, his narrowest margin of victory for the district in the nearly two decades he’s been in Congress. Janz raised $9.2 million trying to unseat him, with donations propelled by Nunes’ renown as one of President Donald Trump’s top allies in Congress.

Twitter and Mair moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that a California-based company should be sued by a California congressman in California, not in Virginia.

After a dismissal hearing in August, Marshall asked Twitter to provide the identities and addresses of the two parody accounts under court seal, as well as the number of Twitter users and paying advertisers located in Virginia.

Twitter refused to provide the identities of the accounts but said neither author had ever lived or worked in Virginia, and no tweets were sent from Virginia.

Mair lived and worked in Virginia when the lawsuit was filed. She has since moved to Connecticut.

Nunes has filed two other lawsuits in Virginia. Marshall’s decision means Nunes’ attorney, Steven Biss, can continue his requests for discovery against the four defendants. Those requests have been extensive, including documentation of any time a Twitter employee has been in Virginia and Mair’s tax returns and client lists for the past few years.

Mair’s attorneys have told McClatchy they plan to seek another dismissal of the lawsuit based on the claims being frivolous.

This isn’t the only lawsuit where the defendants Nunes is suing have argued to dismiss the case based on jurisdiction.

Nunes in Virignia is also suing McClatchy, the parent company of the Fresno Bee. He alleges that a newspaper article about an employee’s lawsuit against a company in which Nunes has a limited partnership defamed him.

Sacramento-based McClatchy has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that Nunes has no grounds to sue the California newspaper company in Virginia. Mair is also a defendant in that lawsuit.

Nunes is suing political research company Fusion GPS and progressive group Campaign for Accountability. Fusion GPS is the firm that in 2016 created what is known as a “dossier” of information alleging President Donald Trump had questionable ties to Russia. Neither Fusion GPS nor the advocacy group is based in Virginia.

In the most recent lawsuit, Nunes alleges in an Iowa court that journalist Ryan Lizza and Esquire magazine defamed Nunes in a 2018 story about Nunes’ family relocating its dairy operations to Iowa.

Nunes filed and dropped one more lawsuit in California in which he attempted to sue a retired Tulare County farmer and several Democratic activists who in 2018 contested Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer on ballots. Nunes, who grew up in a dairy family, won the challenge and was allowed to describe himself as a congressman and farmer.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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