Mike Lindell’s MyPillow Claims Dominion Is A Public Officer In Law
- Dominion filed a $ 1.3 billion lawsuit against MyPillow and Mike Lindell for electoral conspiracy theories earlier this year.
- MyPillow maintains that Dominion is indeed a government entity, which would make it more difficult to win his lawsuit.
- Legal experts say MyPillow may be right. But court records show Dominion is prepared for this possibility.
In August, attorneys for Mike Lindell’s pillow company raised a legal argument that could deal a blow to a $ 1.3 billion libel lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.
MyPillow lawyers argue that since Dominion is developing technology used in elections, he is in fact a government official. And since government officials must rise above the bar to win libel cases, they argue the lawsuit cannot stand.
“At the heart of this case is the scope of an American citizen’s right to criticize the way his government handles the vote count,” write lawyers for MyPillow. âWere the electronic voting systems used in the November 2020 elections hacked and manipulated? Plaintiff Dominion’s billion dollar libel lawsuit and related public attacks on MyPillow and many others are an effort to stifle public debate on these fundamental political issues. “
Overwhelming evidence shows that the 2020 presidential election results were strong. But legal experts have said Insider MyPillow’s argument isn’t so far-fetched.
“The defendants claim that because the plaintiff is performing a strictly governmental function, they should be treated as a public official,” Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia professor and First Amendment expert, told Insider. “This is not an implausible claim, nor is the response that the complainant is low enough in the food chain that he cannot really be considered a public servant, even if he is doing something government under. contract with the government. “
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols is expected to rule on that argument later this month. But even if he rules in favor of MyPillow, that doesn’t necessarily mean Dominion’s lawsuit would be dead.
MyPillow could make it harder for Dominion to win his case
The lawsuit against MyPillow is one of a number of Dominions being brought against 2020 conspiracy theorists and companies who he says have advanced these lies.
Dominion sued Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, Newsmax, One America News, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, MyPillow and Lindell. Smartmatic, a rival election technology company involved in many of the same conspiracy theories, has also sued many of the same parties.
Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, has been the loudest conspiracy theorist of all, hosting a “cyber symposium” advancing more bogus theories as recently as August.
He also counterattacked, demanding $ 1.6 billion because Dominion pledged “culture cancellation.” (A judge suspended Lindell’s trial in June.) Dominion argued that Lindell pushed his election lies to win favor with former President Donald Trump and sell pillows to his supporters.
Nichols ruled in August that Dominion’s lawsuits against MyPillow, Giuliani and Powell could be tried. In a typical defamation lawsuit, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant acted negligently by making false statements.
But plaintiffs who are public officials (people who have been elected or hold high rank in government) or public figures (people or entities who have a certain level of fame) must prove that the defendant acted with a ” actual malevolence â, a much stricter standard. , first formulated in the 1964 Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan.
âThe Sullivan standard of ‘actual malice’, which requires the complainant to demonstrate intentional falsehood or something very close (refusal to investigate in the face of actual knowledge of a possible falsehood), applies to public officials as as plaintiffs, and, as of a few years after Sullivan, public figures, “Schauer wrote in an e-mail.” If the plaintiff is not a public official or a public figure, then the plaintiff does only has to prove falsity and negligence. It’s a huge difference. “
MyPillow wants a judge to keep Dominion up to this standard. Clay Calvert, a press freedom expert at the University of Florida, told Insider that since Dominion is not a government employee, the precedent is not on MyPillow’s side.
“Government officials who are elected to public office are still considered civil service complainants in defamation law,” Calvert explained. âIn order for unelected government employees to be considered official complainants, courts typically ask whether the individual has or appears to have substantial control or authority over government affairs and whether the position invites independent and external public scrutiny. of the controversy at issue in the underlying defamation lawsuit.
Dominion seems ready to fight
In a dazzling court case in September, Dominion argued that standards of “actual maliciousness” should not apply to his trial. He’s a tech company, his lawyers said, not an election administrator.
“No matter how many times the defendants falsely claim the contrary, Dominion is not a ‘public official’, whether for defamation law purposes or for other purposes,” the lawyers wrote. Dominion. “Dominion is a for-profit company that provides local election officials with the tools they can use to run an election.”
Even if Dominion were to be held to a higher standard, legal experts said Insider Lindell’s statements about the company were so outrageous that Dominion has a good chance of winning the lawsuit anyway.
“Yes [what] they argue in the appeal is that the plaintiffs should be reckless, they are probably right about it, âAndrew Koppelman, professor of political science at the university’s law school, told Insider. Northwestern. “On the other hand, as I look at the facts, the evidence for recklessness is overwhelming.”
The Dominion filing in September argued that an appeals court should dismiss MyPillow’s arguments because they are unnecessary: ââEven if the company were to be held to a higher standard, there is enough “evidence” direct âof Lindell’s conduct in the initial lawsuit to keep moving forward. .
The company also pointed out that Lindell has continued to spread conspiracy theories and wrote that it will include these incidents in an amended lawsuit if the court rules against the company.
According to the court’s rules, MyPillow’s appeal should only be granted if it allows the dispute to be resolved quickly. Dominion argues that the best way to do this would be to just move the case forward.
âThe most effective way to ‘materially advance the closure’ of this litigation is for this case to proceed quickly by discovery so that the defendants’ arguments that they have not acted maliciously, even if they are misguided, can be assessed on the basis of a fully developed evidentiary record. “the Dominion lawyers wrote.