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Rep. Devin Nunes

published on September 5, 2019 - 12:18 PM
Written by David Castellon

A little more than a month after U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes’ campaign committee filed a lawsuit against three constituents – including a former farmer from Dinuba – who challenged Nunes’ listed occupation as “farmer” on a 2018 election ballot, the case has been dropped.

Attorneys representing the three defendants in the civil lawsuit described the situation in a news release as a David and Goliath story “without David ever firing a shot.”

The defendants are Paul Buxman, the retired farmer, along with Hope Nisly, a librarian, and Daniel O’Connell, an agrarian scholar, according to the news release.

The attorneys didn’t disclose O’Connell’s and Nisly’s home cities except to say they, like Buxman, live in Nunes’ congressional district.

During the 2018 election, when Nunes (R-Visalia) was seeking re-election, he claimed his profession to be a farmer on the ballot.

He reportedly based that designation on holding a limited interest in two wineries, and Nisly, Buxman and O’Connell challenged whether the congressman could rightfully call himself a farmer and receive the generally positive connotations that come with such a title, with the group’s lawyers adding it might have misled voters.

Their efforts failed, with a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruling that the Secretary of State was satisfied that Nunes met the definition of a farmer, so he could retain the designation on the ballot.

Nunes won re-election, but the dispute with Nisly, Buxman and O’Connell didn’t end there, with his campaign committee filing a lawsuit Aug. 1 in Tulare County Superior Court, accusing the three of engaging in “civil conspiracy” by interfering with the Nunes campaign’s prospective economic advantage.

Though the suit was filed by Nunes’ campaign committee, Fresno attorney Brian D. Whelan, who represented the defendants, said “Nunes is the committee,” meaning it wouldn’t have taken the legal action without his approval.

The Nunes committee’s lawyer in the case didn’t immediately respond to an interview request.

“Paul Buxman, Hope Nisly, and Daniel O’Connell did none of these things. Instead, they were targeted for having exercised their rights to free speech and rights to petition the government,” their attorneys stated in the release, adding that a hearing date on a defense motion to dismiss the suit had been scheduled for October.

Instead, the campaign committee filed on Tuesday a motion to dismiss the case, and the judge approved it on Wednesday.  

This isn’t the only lawsuit Nunes has filed recently against businesses and individuals he has accused of trying to damage his reputation and public image.

The Washington Post and other news agencies reported on Wednesday the Republican congressman filed a $9.9 million federal conspiracy lawsuit accusing the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability for filing harassing complaints against him to retaliate against him for his actions on the House Intelligence Committee challenging the integrity of Fusion GPS and a dossier from an investigation commissioned by the company looking into President Donald Trump’s possible connections to Russia.

The lawsuit, which also names Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson as a co-defendant, characterized the defendants’ actions as “smear” tactics initiated after Simpson reportedly lied in a closed-door meeting of the Intelligence Committee in November 2017.

Nunes has been a strong ally of the president, for which he has been praised and vilified by factions that either support or dislike Trump.

This follows two other lawsuits Nunes filed in California, one seeking $150 million from The McClatchy Co., owner of the Fresno Bee, claiming defamation. In a $250 million suit against Twitter, he accuses the company of censoring conservative content and of bias against him.

As for why Nunes’ campaign committee decided to drop the Tulare lawsuit, Whelan speculated that the other side may have seen the law wasn’t on their side and wanted to end things before having to endure a big, public loss in court.

But The Fresno Bee reported that the Nunes committee’s lawyer claimed the matter was dropped because another lawsuit is being prepared.


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