One of the great legal wars of our time -- comedic actor and prank auteur Sacha Baron Cohen against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, sometime Senate candidate, and accused sexual-assaulter Roy Moore -- just completed its first tête-à-tête battle, and round one went to Cohen. Moore failed in his bid to keep his defamation claim against Cohen (based on a skit featuring a "pedophile detector" that activated when waved near the former judge) in the district court in Washington, D.C.
Moore, who earned the nickname "Fruit Salad" in law school for his mixed-up answers to basic legal questions, apparently signed an agreement requiring him to litigate any claims arising from appearing on Cohen's "Who Is America?" show in New York. Oops.
Moore sued Cohen, Showtime, and parent company CBS for $95 million last year, claiming the skit was defamatory. Here's the segment in question:
"This false and fraudulent portrayal and mocking of Judge Moore as a sex offender has severely harmed Judge Moore's reputation and caused him, Mrs. Moore, and his entire family severe emotional distress," his lawsuit claims, "as well as caused and will cause plaintiffs financial damage."
Cohen, no stranger to lawsuits regarding his movies and TV shows, may have stealthily inculcated himself against defamation claims by having his character, fictional Israeli anti-terrorism expert Erran Morad, act incredulous as the "pedophile detector" went off, saying "It must be malfunctioning," "It is not saying that you are a pedophile," and "I'm not saying that you are a sex offender at all." (Moore also faced multiple allegations that he had molested teenage girls and young women between the 1970s and 1990s during his unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2017.)
Left, Right, or Wrong?
Cohen's attorneys were successful in moving the litigation to the Southern District Court in New York, despite Moore's claims that he was fraudulently lured to Washington D.C. to accept a fake award. "The defendants can try to run to New York City where they obviously believe a leftist jurist will be more inclined to dismiss the case," argued Moore's lawyer Larry Klayman, "but they cannot hide from the egregiousness of their cheap and vile acts. I'm confident (the judge) will see through this charade and allow the case to go to a jury of the parties' peers in the place where this case belongs, the District of Columbia."
It turns out Klayman was a little overconfident, as D.C. Federal Judge Thomas Hogan enforced the agreement mandating the lawsuit be heard in New York.