OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The judge overseeing the blockbuster case involving Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation trail against Fox News announced the trial will be delayed until Tuesday.
“The delay immediately triggered speculation that some sort of settlement talks are in the works, as is not unusual at the last minute before high stakes and big bucks litigation heads to trial. A well-informed legal source said that there were talks but no deal and that the situation remains fluid,” Deadline reported.
The judge made an announcement in court on Monday morning as speculation mounts of a potential settlement between Dominion and Fox News.
“Dominion/Fox judge in court just now said he expects trial to proceed tomorrow, saying ‘this is not unusual.’ ‘This is not a press conference,’ Judge Davis said. ‘I have made the decision to delay the start of the trial until tomorrow.’ no mention of a settlement talks,” ABC News reporter Olivia Rubin tweeted on Monday.
Dominion/Fox judge in court just now said he expects trial to proceed tomorrow, saying "this is not unusual."
"This is not a press conference," Judge Davis said. "I have made the decision to delay the start of the trial until tomorrow."
no mention of a settlement talks.
— Olivia Rubin (@OliviaRubinABC) April 17, 2023
“In court on Monday morning, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis, who is presiding over the lawsuit, said he decided to push back the beginning of the trial to Tuesday, instead of Monday as scheduled. He didn’t explain the reasons for the move. Davis initially announced the move through a court spokesperson on Sunday night. In court on Monday, he said he asked jurors to return on Tuesday morning and told them not to read any media coverage of the case,” Business Insider reported.
Judge Eric M. Davis said in a late Sunday statement: “The Court has decided to continue the start of the trial, including jury selection, until Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at 9:00 a.m.”
Deadline noted that neither Fox News nor Dominion responded to requests for comment on the delay, but that’s not unusual.
Just last week, Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit brought by Venezuelan businessman Majed Khalil, who sued the network over a Lou Dobbs broadcast and tweet linking him to election rigging. Rupert Murdoch’s media empire also settled litigation stemming from the British phone hacking scandal a decade ago.
The outlet reported that, just a week ago, Fox News resolved a defamation lawsuit filed by Venezuelan entrepreneur Majed Khalil.
He sued the network due to a Lou Dobbs broadcast and tweet that connected him to election fraud. Additionally, litigation arising from the phone hacking controversy in the United Kingdom a decade ago was settled by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Earlier this month, Davis issued a key ruling in the case. According to Axios, the Delaware judge ruled that Dominion “can force Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan to take the witness stand in court at a defamation trial later this month.”
“The ruling deals a major blow to Fox News, which had been trying to persuade the judge not to compel the elder Murdoch, who serves as chair of Fox News parent Fox Corp., to testify in person,” the outlet’s report continued.
Davis has stated that he would not prevent Dominion from subpoenaing the Murdochs to testify in person later this month, as he considers them “relevant” to the case, noted Axios.
In February, Rupert Murdoch testified in a closed-door session, a transcript of which was subsequently released. Axios claimed the testimony did not go well for Fox News:
Asked during the proceeding whether it was fair to say that he “seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud,” Murdoch said, “Oh, yes,” and conceded that he doubted false narratives around election fraud from the beginning.
To win the suit, Dominion will need to prove that Fox News acted to peddle false information knowingly. Fox, meanwhile, has argued that the company is protected under the First Amendment and has a protected right to pursue stories and cover the news.
“Because of the First Amendment, which has strong protections for the news media, there’s a very high bar in being able to prove that Fox acted with ‘actual malice,’” Axios noted.
A spokesperson for Fox News noted to the outlet: “Dominion clearly wants to continue generating misleading stories from their friends in the media to distract from their weak case. Demanding witnesses who had nothing to do with the challenged broadcasts is just the latest example of their political crusade in search of a financial windfall.”
During his February testimony, Rupert Murdoch also said that his network hosts were “trying to straddle the line between spewing conspiracy theories on one hand, yet calling out the fact that they are actually false on the other.”
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” Murdoch also testified.
At the time, the network said in a statement that Dominion’s lawsuit “has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny.”