Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — A judge has granted a motion by Rep. Maxine Waters to dismiss a libel and slander lawsuit brought by the Republican she defeated in November, finding there was no evidence she acted with malice toward her political foe.
“We get a fair number of these cases, so I’m familiar with the law,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco told Donna Bullock, the attorney representing plaintiff Joe E. Collins III April 5. “You haven’t come close to proving it.”
Collins alleged the 82-year-old congresswoman’s campaign materials and radio commercials falsely stated that the Navy veteran was dishonorably discharged. Collins said he served honorably for 13 1/2 years in the Navy, receiving decorations and commendations.
“Collins separated from service with the United States Navy as a decorated veteran upon a general discharge under honorable conditions,” according to his court papers, which say he left the military so he could run for office, which he could not do while on active duty.
On Sept. 17, the Waters campaign published a two-sided piece of literature with an “unflattering” photo of Collins that stated, “Republican candidate Joe Collins was dishonorably discharged, played politics and sued the U.S. military. He doesn’t deserve military dog tags or your support,” according to the suit.
The reverse side of the ad had a photo of Waters and text complimenting her for her record with veterans, according to the plaintiff.
In a sworn declaration in favor of dismissing the suit, Waters stated that the information was obtained from a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello.
“In other words, I am being sued for quoting the written decision of a federal judge in my campaign literature,” said Waters, D-Los Angeles.
Collins met in 2018 with Waters’ staff and provided direct information about his discharge status, according to his suit, which says she “knew or should have known that Collins was not dishonorably discharged and the accusation was made with actual malice.”
The plaintiff also cited a Waters radio campaign commercial that aired last fall and included the congresswoman stating, “Joe Collins was kicked out of the Navy and was given a dishonorable discharge. Oh yes, he was thrown out of the Navy with a dishonorable discharge. Joe Collins is not fit for office and does not deserve to be elected to public office. Please vote for me. You know me.”
Waters stated in the radio ad that Collins’ health benefits were paid for by the Navy, which would not be possible if he had been dishonorably discharged, according to the plaintiff.
“The words uttered were a false statement because Collins was discharged from the United States Navy by a general discharge under honorable conditions and not by dishonorable discharge,” the suit stated.
“Plaintiff has failed to provide evidence, much less clear and convincing evidence, that defendants subjectively knew that their statements were false or that they entertained serious doubt as to statements’ truth,” Orozco wrote in the tentative ruling she adopted as her final decision.
Waters said she was “so grateful” Orozco granted the motion to dismiss the case “and that the law will require him to pay my attorney’s fees.”
“The irony is not lost on me that some of the money Collins raised from Donald Trump supporters across the country will actually be applied to my legal defense against his trash lawsuit,” Waters said.