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JULY 14, 2021 – A team of First Amendment litigators from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, representing Showtime and the actor Sacha Baron Cohen, has won dismissal of a $95 million defamation lawsuit filed by Alabama's former chief justice, Roy Moore.
The suit arose from Moore's appearance on the satirical series, "Who Is America?" Baron Cohen, pretending to be an Israeli anti-terrorism expert, claimed to have a device that identified pedophiles. The device went off when waved in front of Moore—a reference to allegations against the judge that were widely publicized during his 2017 campaign for U.S. Senate.
"The segment was clearly a joke and no reasonable viewer would have seen it otherwise," wrote U.S. District Court Judge John Cronan of the Southern District of New York.
Judge Cronan found that the release Moore signed before appearing on the show bars his claims of defamation, fraud, and infliction of emotional distress, and that the program "was commentary on matters of public concern" and protected by the First Amendment.
"The courts have long recognized the critical role that political satire plays in our public debate," said Elizabeth McNamara, who led the defense team. "Mr. Baron Cohen is one of the most original satirists of our time and we are pleased that the judge has vindicated him and the network that showcased his work."
Other members of the Davis Wright team included Rachel Strom, Eric Feder, and Carl Mazurek.
About Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is an AmLaw 100 law firm with approximately 580 lawyers representing clients based throughout the United States and around the world. The firm is widely recognized for having the country's leading First Amendment litigation practice and has been named Media & Entertainment Practice Group of the Year by Law360 for five years straight.