A judge Monday revived a motion by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, to dismiss a libel and slander lawsuit brought by the Republican opponent she defeated in the November election.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco granted motions by Waters and her campaign committee, Citizens for Waters, to set aside entries of default that had previously been issued against both and could have ultimately resulted in judgments in favor of plaintiff Joe E. Collins III.
In her ruling, the judge said that attorney Thomas V. Reichert, who represents Waters and her committee, stated in his court papers that he did not see any proof of service of the lawsuit on the court docket. Reichert said that when he did file an answer, it was accepted by the court’s electronic filing system, according to Orozco.
Reichert also said that any delay in filing an answer was his error and that his clients should not have to pay the price, according to the judge, who found that the attorney had shown grounds for setting aside the entries of default under the Code of Civil Procedure.
The motion by Waters and her campaign committee to dismiss the Collins suit, which alleges the 82-year-old congresswoman’s campaign materials and radio commercials falsely stated that the Navy veteran was dishonorably discharged, could not move forward until the default issue was resolved. The dismissal motion is now scheduled to be heard April 5.
Collins served honorably for 13 1/2 years in the Navy, receiving decorations and commendations, according to his court papers.
“Collins separated from service with the United States Navy as a decorated veteran upon a general discharge under honorable conditions,” according to the suit, which says he left the military so he could run for office, which he could not do while on active duty.
Last Sept. 17, in advance of the Nov. 3 election, the defendants published a two-sided piece of campaign 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,” the suit states.
The reverse side of the ad has a photo of Waters and text complimenting her for her record with veterans, the suit says.
Collins met in 2018 with Waters’ staff and provided direct information about his discharge status, according to the suit, which says she “knew or should have known that Collins was not dishonorably discharged and the accusation was made with actual malice.”
The suit further states that since Sept. 17, a Waters radio campaign commercial 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 also 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 says.