Dominion Voting Systems, suing San Diego-based One America News for $1.6 billion, is asking a federal court to reject the Trump-friendly cable outlet’s request to dismiss or move the case.
In its August defamation suit, Denver-based Dominion said OAN and two of its correspondents “manufactured, endorsed, repeated and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies about Dominion.”
The suit, being heard by Judge Carl J. Nichols in the District of Columbia, said OAN promoted an “alternate reality” where Dominion “engaged in a colossal fraud to steal the presidency from Donald Trump by rigging the vote.”
In mid-November, OAN owner Herring Networks argued that the case should at least be paused or moved to a Colorado court.
But last week, the voting-systems firm fired back in a 56-page reply to Herring Networks and its top executives.
“Instead of focusing on Dominion’s allegations, Defendants devote nearly a third of their brief to recounting largely irrelevant factual and procedural history from a pending Colorado state court action … and to making extraneous attacks on Dominion unrelated to any legal point they try to make in their motion,” said lawyers for Dominion.
Dominion’s legal team mocked OAN for its focus on the defamation case pitting former Dominion employee Eric Coomer against OAN, the Trump presidential campaign and a dozen others.
“One would think, in reading [OAN’s] brief, that Dominion’s complaint revolves entirely around statements by right-wing activist Joseph Oltmann that implicate Coomer,” says the Dominion brief filed Dec. 22. “That is not remotely the case.”
(Oltmann had alleged that Coomer said: “Don’t worry about the election, Trump is not gonna win. I made f-ing sure of that. Hahahaha.”)
But only one of 25 examples of OAN allegedly defaming Dominion are about Oltmann, who is being sued by Coomer in a Denver district court.
“Out of the 311 paragraphs in Dominion’s Complaint, Coomer is mentioned in just five paragraphs,” Dominion’s latest brief says. “Oltmann appears in only eight paragraphs.”
Coomer was then Dominion’s director of strategy and security, and the alleged quote was seized on by Trump allies and OAN correspondent Chanel Rion, whom Dominion also is suing.
OAN’s lawyers asked Judge Nichols to dismiss the Dominion suit, citing a 1976 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court refined the abstention doctrine to prevent duplicative litigation between state and federal courts.
But the rule was updated in 1996, Dominion says, and it doesn’t permit dismissal of suits for damages, “and this is a suit seeking damages for Defendants’ defamatory broadcasts. … [so] defendants’ headline argument is dead on arrival.”
Herring lawyers also seek dismissal of the case because OAN founder and CEO Robert Herring Sr. and his son Charles, the network’s president, don’t live in Washington, D.C.
“Given these Defendants’ extensive contacts in this District, including conducting business and maintaining OAN’s D.C. bureau, that request should likewise be swiftly denied,” the Dominion brief says.
OAN’s motion to dismiss, stay or transfer the case “fails across the board to establish entitlement to the relief Defendants seek,” the brief continues. “The Court should deny their motion in full.”
In any case, Dominion also is suing correspondents Rion and Christina Bobb, and both live in D.C., the brief says.
And OAN maintains one of its two bureaus in D.C., “through which it produced the defamatory statements alleged here.”
The brief notes that OAN has “voluntarily litigated” in D.C. and that another voting technology company, Smartmatic, recently sued OAN in D.C. so it will likely have to appear and litigate there regardless of the Dominion case.
“By contrast, none of the Defendants has any connection to Colorado, and while Rion and OAN are defendants in the Coomer action, both have far more substantial ties to (D.C.),” Dominion said. “This District is the more convenient forum for the parties and the vast majority of the relevant non-party witnesses.”
Judge Nichols has given Herring lawyers until Jan. 13 to respond to the Dec. 22 Dominion brief. No date has been set for a decision on whether to toss the suit or move the case to Colorado.
Nichols clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and joined the federal bench in 2019 after being nominated by President Trump.
But on Aug. 11, a day after Dominion sued OAN (and another conservative network, Newsmax Media Inc.), Nichols ruled that a Dominion libel suit against Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell would go forward.
He rejected the trio’s own motions to dismiss.