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Dominion wins access to Newsmax journalists' texts in its defamation case

The ruling is a blow to the conservative news organization, which said in filings that it had avoided such a mandate in a similar case.
Image: A Newsmax booth at the NRA convention in Houston on May 29.
A Newsmax booth at the NRA convention in Houston on May 29.Callaghan O'Hare / Reuters file

Dominion Voting Systems is entitled to review personal communications and text messages of Newsmax Media journalists in its defamation suit against the conservative media company, a Delaware judge ruled last week.

The ruling is a blow to Newsmax, which successfully avoided such a mandate in a similar case and sought to allow its employees to voluntarily offer up any relevant communications.

Dominion sued Newsmax for $1.6 billion in 2021, claiming that the conservative news network defamed its company and falsely claimed it rigged the 2020 election. The case is one of more than 10 suits brought by voting machine companies against media companies and individuals who made stolen election claims.

A trial in this suit is scheduled to begin in September 2024.

In legal filings, Newsmax said it was unable to obtain and deliver employees' private communications on personal devices, arguing it had “no legal right or practical ability to obtain this data.”

It also argued it wasn't required to give Smartmatic, another voting company maker suing the conservative news network, access to personal cellphones in a similar case, and shouldn't be forced to do so in this case.

But Judge Eric Davis, the Delaware Superior Court judge who oversaw Dominion's case against Fox News and Fox Corporation earlier this year, disagreed with their argument and ruled on Dec. 1 that the company did in fact have to comply with a court order requiring such materials.

The materials could play a key role in litigation, one expert said.

“The Dominion suit [against Fox News] showed us exactly how significant those kinds of opportunity for discovery can be,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law who specializes in the First Amendment.

In that case, which was settled for $787.5 million in April moments before trial was set to begin, communications between Fox News journalists made it clear that many of the journalists reporting claims of a stolen election did not believe the claims.

Dominion “will be combing the records to try and find what we might call state of mind evidence,” she said. “They will be looking for exchanges that suggest that they had knowledge of the falsity of the claims that they were permitting people to make on air, or a high degree of awareness of the probable falsity.”

Newsmax did not immediately respond to a request for comment.