Does Devin Nunes Oppose Frivolous Lawsuits or Not?

In February 2017, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina’s 7th congressional district introduced the Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act. Devin Nunes is listed as one of the 65 co-sponsors of the bill.

Here’s a summary of what the bill would have done if it had been signed into law.

This bill amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to revise requirements concerning citizen suits. Litigation costs (including reasonable attorney and expert witness fees) must be awarded to the prevailing party, thus the bill removes a court’s discretion to award the fees. A prevailing party is defined as the party that prevails on more than half of the claims at issue.

The bill repeals the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny or restrict the use of any area as a disposal site for dredged or fill material when the discharge of those materials would have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas.

Current law requires compensatory mitigation to replace the loss of aquatic resource functions in a watershed when a permit to discharge dredged or fill materials into navigable waters has unavoidable impacts on aquatic resources. This bill prohibits government entities from carrying out compensatory mitigation in excess of existing regulatory requirements.

The primary purpose of the bill, aside from poisoning the water supply, is to discourage people from suing polluters by assuring that they’ll get saddled with the defense’s legal fees if they don’t prevail in court. That would assuredly eliminate frivolous suits, but it would also eliminate valid ones by heightening the financial investment and risk tolerance required to initiate them.

In any case, Devin Nunes co-sponsored this bill because he likes getting financial support from polluters and he wanted to sound tough on frivolous law suits for the “tort reform” fanatics. Rep. Rice’s proposed bill went nowhere. It was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment where it died. The polluters and right-wing legal lobbyists approvingly noted who co-sponsored it, and that’s about all the impact it had.

But Devin Nunes apparently likes frivolous law suits because he just filed one.

Stung by obscene and pointed criticism, Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, has sued Twitter and three users for defamation, claiming the users smeared him and the platform allowed it to happen because of a political agenda.

The complaint, which was filed in Henrico County Circuit Court in Virginia on Tuesday, seeks $250 million in damages. In making his case, Mr. Nunes, a loyal ally of President Trump and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, repeated several common Republican complaints that Twitter has repeatedly denied: that it censors Republicans, “shadow bans” their accounts and actively helps their opponents.

Though absorbing criticism comes with the territory for politicians, the complaint described the objectionable tweets from the three users as something “that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”

To make his case, he cited a wide variety of tweets that included accusations of criminal misconduct, crude jokes at his expense and relatively banal criticism. The complaint says the tweets “falsely stated” that Mr. Nunes had brought “shame” to his family and that he was voted “Most Likely to Commit Treason” in high school, and that one of them included a cartoon image of a sexual act with Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The complaint lists dozens of other tweets he found insulting.

There is zero chance that a public figure like Congressman Devin Nunes will prevail in court. But I don’t think he can complain if we insist that he pays all the defendants’ legal costs when he loses his case. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com