Judge Eric Davis said he felt Fox misrepresented Murdoch’s role with the cable network. ‘An omission is a lie,’ the judge said.
A Delaware Superior Court judge will consider sanctioning Fox News lawyers after it was revealed days before the trial for the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that Rupert Murdoch is a corporate officer for the cable news network.
Dominion, during a pretrial hearing this week claimed that Fox withheld this information over the course of litigation in the last two years, despite repeated requests for information about Fox News’ corporate structure. Lawyers argued Wednesday that this has prevented Dominion from receiving a significant number of documents during discovery.
Judge Eric Davis commented that he too felt Fox misrepresented Murdoch’s role with Fox News. Davis, on Wednesday, openly questioned if he could trust what lawyers for Fox News and its parent company are telling him the truth.
At one point, Davis asked: “What do I do with attorneys that aren’t straightforward with me?”
“I need people to tell me the truth,” Davis said moments before. “By the way, an omission is a lie.”
Dominion lawyers reveal Murdoch as corporate officer for Fox News
In one of the more dramatic moments during pretrial hearings, Dominion counsel revealed Tuesday that Fox News now considered media mogul Rupert Murdoch to be a corporate officer for the cable news network.
Fox, Dominion said, has maintained during the course of litigation that its Fox News corporate officers were CEO Suzanne Scott, COO and CFO Joe Dorrego and President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace. On Sunday, Fox sent a list that added Murdoch to this group.
When first learning about this on Tuesday, Davis admonished Fox lawyers – telling them they have a “credibility problem.” Davis said that this information could have changed aspects of his summary judgment ruling, which narrowed the case.
Fox lawyers said they did not withhold information and that this information was made available in Murdoch’s deposition.
Will judge sanction Fox over this information?
Davis, on Wednesday, said he plans to take time on how he would sanction Fox for not providing information to the court, noting he will likely consult with others. He wanted to refrain from making a “spur of the moment” decision on the eve of the high-profile trial.
Dominion lawyers on Wednesday asked the judge to de-consolidate the case, which Davis declined to do. Lawyers also asked for a jury instruction that would tell jurors Dominion was unable to obtain all of the documents that it was entitled to in relation to Murdoch.
Fox attorney Dan Webb said neither he nor Murdoch knew that the media mogul was considered to be an executive chair of Fox News. He added that he did not think there were any other relevant documents that have been both withheld and are related to Murdoch.
Webb and Judge Davis then had a tense back-and-forth exchange, in which the judge expressed that he was upset that information was not sent to him, despite Fox lawyers previously saying they would do so.
“What do I do with situations where I ask a question and it’s not answered straightforward,” Davis said. The judge then clarified that he was not “mad.”
Dominion lawyers, later in the hearing Wednesday morning, also accused Fox of slow-walking documents part of discovery, with Dominion still receiving documents days before trial. Dominion lawyer Davida Brook cited a recent Daily Beast article, in which a former Fox producer claimed there are secret Fox audio recordings of Rudy Guiliani and other Trump associates.
“We keep on learning about more relevant information from individuals other than Fox,” Brook said. “And to be honest, we don’t really know what to do about that.”
Fox lawyers said they were not aware of the recordings until recently, which is why these recordings were produced last week.