HBO Stunted In John Oliver Coal Lawsuit As Judge Rejects Move To Federal Court


Looks like HBO and John Oliver are going to have to dig a little closer to the core to get out of the defamation lawsuit by coal baron Robert E. Murray after a judge today rejected the premium broadcaster’s efforts to move the case to federal court from the jurisdiction of West Virginia.

“This Court passes no judgment as to the merits of either motion, but notes that both contain questions of law suited for the state court,” said U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey on Thursday in a detailed order (read it here). “Based upon the foregoing, this Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion to Remand,” he added in the 10-page document. “Accordingly, this action is hereby REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Marshall County, West Virginia.”

The CEO of Murray Energy Corporation and various subsidiaries filed the action in state court on June 22 after being mocked as a “geriatric Dr. Evil” and more on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver by the former Daily Show correspondent. As the ACLU sought to file a brief in the matter, HBO moved to have the whole thing shifted to federal court – a move that, while not reflecting at all on the merits of the case in any way, has obviously not worked out for them.

Watch the segment that has Murray so upset here:

HBO did not respond when contacted by Deadline for comment on the order.  The home of Last Week and Game of Thrones had argued that a shift to federal court was warranted because not HBO nor Oliver nor Murray himself actually were located in West Virginia, and the other more local plaintiffs were “not properly joined.” With the Marshall County Coal Company and three other Murray entities named as plaintiffs in the initial civil action situated in the Mountain State, like this case will seemingly now be, Judge Bailey saw it differently.

At the same time, regardless what you think of his legal reasoning, the District Court Judge’s order also serves a fine example of solid concise writing when it comes to describing some of the fictions referenced by Oliver in his take-down of Murray – as this wonderful, perhaps once in a generation footnote on Page 7 of today’s order makes clear:

“For those who might not be familiar, Dr. Evil, whose real name is Douglas Evil Powers, gained notoriety as the villain of the Austin Powers film franchise,” explains the Judge of the comparison Oliver made to Murray. “He is a parody of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a nemesis of James Bond,” it is additionally noted. “Along with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, a colorful supporting entourage, and a plethora of secret lairs, Dr. Evil made several attempts at taking over the world, before ultimately finding redemption by the end of the final film.”

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