According to roanoake.com, California’s anti-SLAPP law lets defendants strike down lawsuits before litigations occur when it comes to free speech, but, Virginia does not offer such protections. Courts have ruled that when it comes to “heaping ridicule among public figures”– it is not protected, when, that is a parody.
Among the lawsuits are parody accounts Devin Nunes’s cow, and, Devin Nunes‘ Mom, both @DevinCow, and @mom_nunes, respectively. The attorney for the plaintiff in the case is trying to get the case dismissed.
“Both of these anonymous Twitter accounts are blatant parody accounts,” Surovell’s motion states (who is an attorney in the case for the defense’s side). “No reasonable person would believe that Devin Nunes’ cow actually has a Twitter account, or that the hyperbole, satire and cow-related jokes it posts are serious facts. It is self-evident that cows are domesticated livestock animals and do not have the intelligence, language, or opposable digits needed to operate a Twitter account. Moreover, by purporting to be from a cow, with the excessive use of cow puns and cow imagery, it is plainly evident that it is not a serious news outlet.”
Surovell, also states that among other things, Nunes hasn’t done enough work to compile supporting material to subpoena the owners of the accounts. It would seem that the intent of the lawsuits are to try to stop people from expressing a negative point of view about Nunes. The point of a SLAPP lawsuit is to harass the intended victims rather than to outright sue. It should also be noted that Devin Nunes’s cow had less than 1,000 followers before the lawsuit and afterwards, the follower-count for the account skyrocketed to easily over 100,000 (roanoke.com). By going after people with libel-lawsuits, it might be more expensive for the less-wealthy victims, but, there’s also a chance for the victims in the lawsuits that might overcome it.
I should note– that I am personally followed by Devin’s Cow on Twitter. Being followed by the cow has no bearing on my personal opinion on this case. I understand Devin Nunes’s point of view, and, I see the cow posting things that he might not like. However, he is a public figure, and people who are public figures are subject to stricter scrutiny with the actual malice test. That’s why parody is protected. Writing this piece was difficult, because, of how many people that Devin Nunes sues. But, public officials need to be held to account. I’m sure that he would agree with that.
I should also note that as I was writing this piece– Devin Nunes ended up suing CNN for their report about him being involved in the Ukraine impeachment scandal on the wrong side of things. The initial CNN report claimed that Devin Nunes spoke with Lev Parnas about Ukraine, he said that he did not speak to Lev Parnas in the lawsuit about such matters, and reporting shows that he was on the call record with Lev Parnas during the transcripts. In one call, he was on the phone for more than 8 minutes