It’s On: Fox News v. Dominion Voting Trial Begins in High-Stakes Defamation Case

A jury of 12 was seated Tuesday, giving way to opening arguments

Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems arrive in court Tuesday
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – APRIL 18: Lead by lawyers Stephen Shackelford (5th L) and Justin Nelson (2nd L), the legal team representing Dominion Voting Systems arrives at the Leonard Williams Justice Center where Dominion is suing FOX News in Delaware Superior Court on April 18, 2023 in Wilmington, Delaware. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in damages because it claims it was defamed by FOX when the cable network broadcast false claims that it was tied to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, that it paid kickbacks to politicians and that its voting machines were 'rigged' and switched millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the 2020 election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The high-stakes defamation trial of Dominion Voting Systems vs. Fox News got underway in earnest, as attorneys seated a jury of 12 Tuesday morning and were expected to begin opening statements by midday.

Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in its civil case before the Superior Court in Delaware, where Fox is incorporated. Attorneys and a mass of media large enough to require a separate overflow area beyond the cavernous courtroom gathered for the start of a trial that could not just be a mighty blow to Fox’s reputation and bottom line, but also carry huge First Amendment implications.

Fox is accused of defaming Dominion’s immediately following the 2020 presidential election, when some of the network’s guests and hosts suggested that the Denver company’s voting machines had been hacked or compromised. The network has stridently denied any wrongdoing, saying it was merely reporting what was being said by newsmakers – including Donald Trump and his shrinking circle of lawyers, including Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani – who were pushing the unfounded claims.

Dominion scored a series of early victories in discovery and pre-trial filings, from embarrassing revelations about behind-the-scenes discord at the network’s promotion of zany election conspiracy theorists down to the sloppy “discovery misconduct” of Fox’s lawyers on the eve of trial. Those issues may have prompted Judge Eric Davis to delay the trial from its original Monday start.

Witnesses will include a who’s-who of Fox News heavies, from C-suiters including Rupert Murdoch to top hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Documents and depositions released by Dominion during pre-trial motions showed Fox leaders openly scoffing at election fraud claims being aired on the network, an important building block for the Denver-based voting machine company’s proof of the “actual malice” standard required for defamation.

The Supreme Court set the standard in 1964 with the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling. The court handed down a huge win for free speech and the ability to criticize public figures by saying defamation plaintiffs must prove that the defendant either intended repetitional harm, or was aware of it but published anyway.

This story is developing …