One America News Network marked a minor financial victory Friday when a San Diego federal judge reduced how much it had to pay Rachel Maddow’s lawyers.
But instead of the $347,000 NBCUniversal lead lawyer Ted Boutrous Jr. sought, Judge Allison H. Goddard awarded the defense team $247,000 (plus costs of about $10,000).
Charles Herring, president of OAN parent Herring Networks, told Law and Crime: “We’re pleased that the fees were reduced by nearly a third by the court.”
But Herring noted that the case is under appeal “and we’re highly confident that we’ll receive a favorable and just ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”
In mid-December, Boutrous filed a 65-page brief arguing that the 9th Circuit should uphold dismissal by Judge Cynthia Bashant of the defamation case. OAN had sued Maddow for saying on air that the pro-Trump network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
“This Court should affirm the district court’s judgment dismissing this case with prejudice,” Boutrous wrote. “This is exactly the kind of legally baseless defamation lawsuit targeting truthful speech about a ‘public issue’ that California’s anti-SLAPP statute, California defamation law and the First Amendment forbid.”
He added: “This lawsuit, which quibbles with a few words stripped of any context, is intended to chill truthful reporting and commentary on important matters of public concern.”
OAN has a Feb. 16 deadline to answer Boutrous’ arguments — and seek a reversal of the Bashant verdict.
Judge Goddard, in her decision on defense costs, found that “reasonable rates for comparable work in San Diego are not as high as Defendants assert, but not as low as Plaintiff suggests.”
She said reasonable hourly rates in San Diego for attorneys of comparable skill, experience and reputation were $1,150 for Boutrous, $1,050 for Scott Edelman, $720 for Nathaniel Bach, $470 for Marissa Moshell and $470 for Daniel Rubin. (Boutrous had asked for an hourly rate as high as $1,525.)
Last June, Herring told Times of San Diego: “No one wants to spend that kind of money, but it is just a part of business.”
He hasn’t responded to queries regarding the prospect of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, which this week demanded that Facebook and other social media platforms preserve posts and data from OAN and others over media allegations that Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election.
Lawyers for Dominion’s parent company sent letters to Facebook, YouTube, Parler and Twitter stating that the posts and data from Fox, Newsmax, OAN, former President Trump and others are relevant to Dominion’s pending and forthcoming claims.
Dominion previously warned the networks and others that defamation litigation against them was “imminent.”