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CNN Says Federal Judge Should Not Allow Devin Nunes’s Defamation Attorney to Represent Michael Flynn’s Brother in Lawsuit


NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: The CNN sign is seen outside its headquarters November 12, 2002 in New York City. The proposed merger between CNN and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC News is progressing and could reach an agreement on principle by January, according to negotiators close to the deal. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Attorneys for CNN on Thursday implored a federal judge in Manhattan not to allow a lawyer known for representing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in a series of failed defamation lawsuits to represent the brother of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in a defamation lawsuit against the network.

Attorney Steven Biss on Wednesday filed a motion to represent John “Jack” Flynn and his wife, Leslie Flynn, in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) where in March they filed a $75 million lawsuit accusing CNN of falsely claiming that they were QAnon followers in a Feb. 4 report. The complaint asserted that the network’s “false attributions exposed Plaintiffs to public scorn, ridicule and contempt, and lowered their esteem in the community, causing insult, embarrassment, humiliation and substantial injury to Plaintiffs’ reputations.”

Biss, who is a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Virginia but is not licensed to practice law in New York federal court, sought a court permission to practice “pro hac vice” to represent the Flynn’s in this particular case.

Motions for attorneys to practice pro hac vice are common and typically go unchallenged, but CNN and Biss have a tumultuous litigation history that just last month ended with Biss being sanctioned for “unreasonably and vexatiously” continuing to litigate a lawsuit that had already been dismissed with prejudice in March.

“The ability of an out-of-state attorney to appear pro hac vice is a ‘privilege’ and ‘not a right granted either by statute or the Constitution,” attorneys for CNN wrote in a motion opposing Biss’s admission. “Here, this Court should deny Mr. Biss’ application because he has history of making bad faith allegations against defendants in defamation actions, including his conduct towards CNN.”

CNN then provided examples of Biss being reprimanded for his conduct in recent court decisions.

“Just a few days ago, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland sanctioned Mr. Biss in the amount of $21,437.50 in attorneys’ fees and $52.26 in expenses because he ‘engaged in bad faith conduct in filing the last-minute Amended Complaint’ against CNN,” the motion stated. “In particular, the Court concluded that Mr. Biss’ filing of an amended complaint that did not address the deficiencies that led to the dismissal of the original complaint was ‘the sort of bad faith courts have repeatedly found to merit sanction.’”

The network further asserted that Biss was demonstrating the exact same sort of behavior that recently resulted in the aforementioned sanctions, noting that CNN had already provided him with evidence that the allegedly defamatory statements about the Flynns’ QAnon associations are “substantially true.”

Additionally, the motion pointed out that Biss was previously suspended from practicing law for one year in 2009 for “a deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law.” The CNN motion also quoted a recent appellate court opinion that said Biss “even during his suspension period […] failed to be forthright about his suspension status with an opposing party when engaging in negotiations on behalf of a client, resulting in an additional 30 day suspension of his license.”

From that opinion, which was another loss for Biss against media outlets:

The network concluded the motion by reiterating its position that Biss’ pro hac vice request should be denied.

“Mr. Biss has seemingly decided to continue engaging in precisely the conduct for which he has already been sanctioned or reprimanded, and his pro hac vice application should be denied, with prejudice,” the filing stated.

Read the full motion below.

CNN Steve Biss Doc by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.