Speed Reads

Delay of Game

Judge delays Fox News-Dominion defamation trial start, reportedly to allow settlement talks

The Delaware judge overseeing Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News delayed the start of the high-profile trial until at least Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Eric Davis did not explain the 24-hour delay in his statement late Sunday, but The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post report that Fox News is exploring avenues to settle the case out of court. The trial, expected to last about six weeks, was supposed to start Monday morning with jury selection and opening statements. Neither Fox News nor Dominion commented on the delay.

Davis has already ruled that Fox News clearly made false and harmful statements about Dominion Voting Systems after the 2020 election, and that Fox's projected defense, that it was covering former President Donald Trump's false claims about Dominion rigging the election because they were newsworthy, is no defense against defamation.

"A lawsuit is a little bit like hitting a home run," in that "you have to go through all of the bases to get there," University of Pennsylvania law professor Cary Coglianese tells The Associated Press. Judge Davis' rulings "basically give Dominion a spot at third base, and all they have to do is come home to win it."

The 12 Delaware jurors would have to decide whether Fox acted with "actual malice" or a reckless disregard for the truth in broadcasting claims from Trump and allies even though, as texts released by Dominion show, Fox executives and hosts did not believe the claims to be true. "If the trial were a sporting event, Fox News would be taking the field on a losing streak, with key players injured and having just alienated the referee," AP explains

Fox representatives have been publicly arguing that its broadcasts about Dominion are protected by the First Amendment, but inside the network's executive suites "there is little optimism about the case," The New York Times reports. "Fox lawyers are already preparing for an appeal," possibly to the Supreme Court.

The trial is being closely watched as a rare test of U.S. libel law and because some of the most prominent names in conservative media — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Rupert Murdoch among them — were expected to testify, the Times adds. "But there is another fundamental question the case raises: Will there be a price to pay for profiting from the spread of misinformation?" The jury is still out on that one.