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July 22, 2009 4:48 PM

Judge Rules K&L Gates E-mails Not Privileged, Reinstates Dan Rather's Fraud Claim Against CBS

Posted by Matt Straquadine

Dan Rather won a procedural victory Tuesday in his lawsuit against former employer CBS when a New York state judge reinstated a previously dismissed fraud claim.

As Bloomberg reports, Judge Ira Gammerman ordered CBS to turn over thousands of documents that Rather's attorney, Martin Gold of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, says will prove CBS sought to influence a panel that investigated Rather after his controversial 60 Minutes report on former President George W. Bush's military record.

Among the documents are e-mail messages between the panel and lawyers at K&L Gates, the law firm CBS retained to advise the company during the investigation. K&L Gates had refused to turn over the e-mails to Rather's attorney, citing work product privilege. Judge Gammerman ruled Tuesday that the e-mails are not protected by privilege; he ordered them turned over within ten days.

The judge also allowed Rather to reinstate his fraud claim against the broadcaster, after dismissing the claim twice before on technical grounds. Gammerman had given Rather the option to refile. Rather's breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims still stand.

CBS's counsel on that lawsuit, James Quinn of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, says the judge's rulings are insignificant.

"We didn't oppose the discovery motion, our opinion is give him everything," Quinn says. "As for the fraud claim, I'm trying to be kind here, but it's frivolous. It's been dismissed two times in the past, we'll move to have it dismissed again."

Nevertheless, Rather's attorney says that, though the end of this case is still far off, the rulings amount to, "a significant victory for Dan."

"The damage that CBS did to Dan was also done to journalism itself," says Gold.  "When CBS terminated Dan after [the report] it cast a chill over all investigative journalism of the Bush administration. For this they deserve to be punished."

Rather filed the lawsuit against CBS in September 2007, claiming his career had been damaged as a result of the company's biased investigation. He is seeking $70 million in compensatory and punitive damages.


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