A lawyer known for representing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in a string of unsuccessful defamation suits against media companies and parody Twitter accounts has been sanctioned and ordered to pay over $21,000 in attorneys’ fees to CNN.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett determined that an amended version of a lawsuit filed by attorney Steven Biss on behalf of Nunes’ senior aide Derek Harvey late last year was “frivolous,” according to court documents obtained by Law & Crime. The amended suit was dismissed “with prejudice” on March 31 after the judge determined that it did not make any new claims. “With prejudice” is a legal term that means the lawsuit cannot be filed again.
The original lawsuit was thrown out by Bennett in February, when the judge described its claims as being “simply without merit.” Biss persisted and filed an amendment that prompted the latest ruling on Tuesday. Biss and Harvey were sanctioned and ordered to pay CNN $21,437 in attorneys’ fees and another $52 in expenses. Nunes was directly involved in the suit.
The lawsuit involved claims related to former President Donald Trump‘s first impeachment and targeted CNN, former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and his attorney Joseph Bondy. The suit came after a November 2020 CNN report claiming that Parnas was prepared to testify that Nunes met with a former Ukrainian prosecutor as part of an effort to dig up “dirt” on then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Harvey claimed that suggestions that he was involved in the alleged scheme were false and defamatory.
While the original suit claimed that CNN made 20 false claims about Nunes, the amended version included only five alleged falsehoods. Bennett remained unconvinced.
“This Court determined Harvey and his counsel engaged in bad faith conduct in filing the last-minute Amended Complaint in this case, joining a ‘chorus’ of courts sanctioning one of the Plaintiff’s attorneys, Steven Biss,” Bennett wrote in Tuesday’s ruling.
The Virginia-based Biss “has a history of using questionable tactics in litigation,” according to a January 2020 article published by The Fresno Bee. In 2008, he was banned from practicing law for a year after the state bar found that he had “committed a deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law.”
Newsweek reached out to Biss for comment.
A lawsuit similar to the one involved in Tuesday’s ruling was dismissed by a different judge in February. It had been brought against CNN by Nunes himself and sought over $435 million in damages. Nunes has also filed unsuccessful lawsuits against media outlets including Fresno Bee owner McClatchy, Esquire and The Washington Post. Biss has represented Nunes in at least six suits.
Biss famously litigated Nunes’ beef with Twitter over an account dubbed “Devin Nunes’ cow.” The congressman demanded to the learn the identity of the person who ran the account, one of several parody accounts focused on mocking him. The lawsuit against Twitter was dismissed by a judge last summer, with the legal effort to uncover the identity of the still-active account’s owner also failing.
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