Defamation lawsuits are flying New York between leading lawyers involved in the Jeffrey Epstein controversy. We recently discussed a court’s ruling against Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz in his effort to dismiss a defamation case against him. Now, leading litigator David Boies has filed his own defamation lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court. The filing came one day after Dershowitz on Friday — just one day after Dershowitz made accusations against him and his clients in his own defamation lawsuit in federal court.
Dershowitz once dared his accusers to sue him in the ongoing controversy over his role in the alleged abuse of underaged girls in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. One did just that. Virginia Giuffre has claimed that she was forced to have sex as an underaged girl with friends and acquaintances of Epstein, including Dershowitz. Dershowitz called her a liar on multiple occasions, including statements he never met Giuffre and that she is a “serial perjurer,” a “serial liar,” and a “serial prostitute.” She sued him for defamation and U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York has rejected Dershowitz’s motion to dismiss and held that Dershowitz will have to face a trial on her claims. Former judge Paul Cassell has also leveled charges against Dershowitz, accusing him of being one of the abusers of underaged girls.
Dershowitz has emphatically denied the allegation and, while admitting that he accepted a massage, he insisted that he “kept my underwear on.”
Boies represents accuser Sarah Ransome, and accused Dershowitz of “an effort to distract attention from his own misconduct, Defendant has engaged in a campaign to attack and vilify each of the lawyers who have represented his victims, one of which is Plaintiff.” He noted that Dershowitz is engaging in the attacks because he is a “long-time friend and lawyer for convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein” and has been “personally accused under oath by two women of sexually abusing them when they were young.”
Boies states that Dershowitz went beyond defending himself and began defaming other lawyers when he stated that the lawyers for the victims told their clients to “intentionally lie about having sex” with him as part of Epstein’s sex ring.
Boies insists that he “has no practical alternative but to [sue Dershowitz for defamation]” as Dershowitz has repeatedly demanded. For his part, Dershowitz doubled down on his attacks on the opposing counsel and publicly declared “David Boies seems to forget that truth is a total defense to a defamation action. I will prove the truthfulness of everything I’ve ever said about David Boies, and I look forward to cross-examining him under oath.”
The case could highlight the difference drawn by courts over statements made in court and outside of court. As we have previously discussed, most of what lawyers and witnesses say would constitute defamation outside of court. Lawyers often accuse people of crimes or lying in court. Thus, in a prior hearing former Judge Cassell (as counsel for the victims) openly asserted that sealed documents establish that Dershowitz (who represented Epstein and helped negotiate the deal) did have relations with the underaged girls that Epstein reportedly made available to his powerful friends. Such statements are treated as privilege and protected from defamation lawsuits. However, that litigation privilege can be lost once a lawyer walks outside of court. It applies to certain out of court statements including, as we discussed, some pre-trial letters. For example, the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the absolute privilege applied to the publication of pleadings online and dissemination of the pleadings to the press in Norman v. Borison (2011). Many states extend privilege to delivering papers outside of court, giving pleadings to the media, correspondence related to litigation. Statements characterizing filings fall into an uncertain area and lawyers have been sued for public statements about opposing parties.
I have long criticized the secret deal that Epstein secured in 2007 with former United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and the former United States labor secretary under President Trump, Alexander Acosta. The deal was a disgrace. It not only allowed Epstein to avoid a lengthy prison stint but, as recently found by a federal court, it violated federal law by hiding the details from more than 30 identified victims of Epstein.
Under the extraordinary agreement, Epstein pled guilty to state charges, accepted 13 months in jail, and registered as a sex offender. He not only avoided a life sentence but secured an agreement to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, out of jail on “work release.” He simply had to sleep in jail. Moreover, the Southern District of Florida also agreed that he would not be prosecuted federally.
Dershowitz is now facing multiple lawsuits and each will force discovery and depositions. Given the reference in the comments to the underlying allegations against Dershowitz by at least two women, the scope of the discovery is likely to include the Epstein allegations. Indeed, the jury is likely to hear those allegations in court. It is ironic since Epstein himself (with Dershowitz’s help) was able to avoid such a trial.