Though a lawsuit by Rep. Devin Nunes (R) against a political reporter flopped last year, another filed by his family and their farm remains pending. Botched redactions on a filing in that case appear to reveal that even the California Republican’s brother is stumped about how it is financed.
First noticed by Insider, the poorly blackened out lines quote the congressman’s brother Anthony Nunes III conceding the matter is a mystery to him.
“I have no idea,” the brother testified, according to the filing by lawyers for Esquire and Ryan Lizza, who is now with Politico.
In February 2020, roughly a year and a half ago, the anti-corruption watchdog Campaign Legal Center noted that Nunes would have to disclose the receipt of free legal services under ethics guidelines.
The California Republican’s years-long legal blitz has targeted CNN, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, the Washington Post, and the parody Twitter accounts “Devin Nunes’ Cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Mom.” A third account, @DevinNunesAlt, was scrutinized by former Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department, a fact that came to light after Twitter opposed their subpoena.
Though a federal judge dismissed the congressman’s lawsuit against Esquire, another filed by NuStar—the Nunes Iowa dairy farm that was the subject of Lizza’s exposé suggesting it employed undocumented labor—remains pending. The congressman himself is not a party to the lawsuit, but the brother and father Anthony Nunes, Jr. are co-plaintiffs. A federal judge allowed a portion of the amended complaint to proceed to discovery.
Now, Lizza and Hearst Magazine Media, want third-party discovery into the financing of the lawsuit. The latest filing suggests that the Nunes family only has paid $500 to a former local counsel.
Under the redactions of Monday’s filing in support of that bid, Rep. Nunes can be seen articulating his serial litigation “policy.”
“The Congressman testified: ‘[A]nd now my policy is, and I have a new policy, that if you defame or slander me, I take you to court,'” the legal brief states.
Despite a string of defeats, the congressman’s apparent zeal for litigation has not abated. Nunes filed his lawsuit against Maddow earlier this month, and the redacted portions of the latest filing suggest that his family is prosecuting their current lawsuit on the cheap.
“In addition, Plaintiffs’ apparent lack of investment in prosecuting their own lawsuit was buttressed by their deposition testimony admitting they have not incurred out-of-pocket payments to counsel, with the exception [of] paying $500 to former local counsel Joe Feller, and their document production of financial records indicating the same lack of payments to counsel for costs or fees, save the payment to Feller,” the filing states.
Lawyer Steven Biss has represented Rep. Nunes in several of his lawsuits, and the latest filing suggests the attorney is not getting paid by the plaintiffs in this case.
“Plaintiffs admit making no payments to Biss for his services in this lawsuit, and presumably Biss does not work for free,” the redacted portion of the filing states. “This prompts the question of whether Plaintiffs are the real party in interest, particularly if they do not stand to materially benefit from its outcome. For instance, Anthony Nunes III testified at his deposition that he is not interested in winning any money in this lawsuit—yet the Complaint seeks, in bold face type, $25 million dollars.”
Biss did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Insider’s scoop follows a series of stories based on newsworthy revelations hidden under improperly redacted filings, which allow readers to copy and paste the text hidden under the black lines. Earlier this year, a defense filing in the case of former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas disclosed that prosecutors had seized records from Ukrainian officials. Those revelations came shortly after the raid on Giulaini’s New York apartment.
Read the filing below:
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