Attorneys for conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to move the libel lawsuit brought against Breitbart by former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod into federal court.
Sherrod filed suit on Feb. 11 in D.C. Superior Court against Breitbart and Larry O’Connor, who blogs for Breitbart’s Web sites; a third, unnamed, defendant is also listed in the suit. In the complaint, Sherrod argues that the D.C. Superior Court is the proper venue because major events at issue took place in the District.
In his petition, Breitbart’s attorney, Eric Kuwana of Katten Muchin Rosenman, claims that because Sherrod is seeking damages that will likely exceed $75,000 and all of the parties live outside of the District, the case should be handled in federal court. Bruce Sanford of Baker & Hostetler is representing O’Connor.
Sherrod’s attorneys, Thomas Clare and Thomas Yannucci of Kirkland & Ellis, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sherrod, former Georgia state director for rural development for USDA, sued Breitbart and the two co-defendants for defamation after a clip of Sherrod speaking at a March 2010 event was posted on Breitbart’s Web site.
The clip appeared to show Sherrod, who is black, admitting she discriminated against white farmers seeking her help in 1986; the full video, released shortly after, shows that Sherrod was saying that while she initially wondered if she should be focusing her efforts on helping black farmers in need, she realized that economic circumstances, not race, should determine who receives assistance. She noted that she helped the white farmers save their farm.
The original clip immediately went viral after it was posted on July 19 and, by the end of the day, Sherrod complied with a request that she submit her resignation. When the full video was released the following morning, however, Sherrod received a number of apologies, including from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and President Obama.
District Court Judge Richard Leon has been assigned to the case.