JACKSON Ude, editor-in-chief of Pointblanknews.com, has continued to lose his reliefs in the defamation suit brought against him by Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB. On January 20, the United States District of Court, Eastern District of Pennysylvania, again denied Ude’s requests while granting that of Wabote.
The court gave its order after listening to both Wabote and Ude represented by their lawyers who argued their cases on Wednesday, January 19.
The court in ECF 97 Order which was sighted granted the plaintiff’s (Wabote) request and stated that Ude (Defendant) must sit for an additional deposition and must answer all questions that he is asked, including all questions surrounding PointBlankNews and the identities of the reporters and editors that allegedly worked there and worked on the defamatory story.
Ude, during his earlier deposition in December 21, 2021, evaded providing the names of his colleagues at the Pointblanknews.com on the grounds that they are endangered by the nature of the investigative work they do Nigeria and could be killed if their identities are known.
Also, the court ordered Ude’s attorney not to make any speaking objections during the additional deposition, adding that he should not coach the witness during deposition. Wabote’s counsel had argued with Ude’s lawyer that he was speaking during objection and trying to coach him during deposition.
In ECF 98 Order, the judge denied Ude’s requests and ordered that the Wabote does not need to respond further to interrogatories or document requests. The order stated that Wabote does not need to respond to the false allegations surrounding the Tee & T company or its bank accounts.
The court ruled that Wabote and his attorneys have not committed any perjury or fraud and have acted completely proper throughout the litigation and discovery process.
A verbatim report of the order of the court by Judge Joseph Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge, states: “O R D E R
AND NOW, this 20th day of January 2022, upon consideration of Defendant’s letter-briefs, see ECF No’s. 90 and 91, Plaintiff’s response letter-brief, see ECF No. 94, and after a telephone conference held on January 19, 2022,1 during which both parties’ presented argument, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1 Attorney Michael D. Cilento, Esq. participated on behalf of Plaintiff, and attorney Benneth Onyema Amadi participated on behalf of Defendant.
“2 The Court reminds counsel that they have an obligation to exhaustively address all discovery disputes among themselves before requesting the Court’s intervention. See E.D. PA. LOCAL R. CIV. P. 26.1(f) (requiring counsel seeking court intervention to certify that “the parties, after reasonable effort, are unable to resolve the dispute”). See also FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a)(1) (providing that a motion to compel discovery “must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action”); Evans v. Am. Honda Motors Co., No. 2:00-cv-02061, 2003 WL 22844186, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 26, 2003) (explaining that these rules are not mere formalities; they “impose a substantial obligation on counsel to resolve discovery problems before bringing them to the attention of the court”).
“Defendant’s letter-requests, ECF No’s. 90 and 91, are both DENIED.”
In the case of Ude’s requests, a verbatim report of ruling by Judge Leeson’s reads: “O R D E R AND NOW, this 20th day of January 2022, upon consideration of Plaintiff’s letter-brief, see ECF No. 88, Defendant’s response letter-briefs, see ECF No’s. 93 and 95, and after a telephone conference held on January 19, 2022,1 during which both parties’ presented argument, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
“1 Attorney Michael D. Cilento, Esq. participated on behalf of Plaintiff, and attorney Benneth Onyema Amadi participated on behalf of Defendant.
“2 Defendant’s objections raised under the Pennsylvania Shield Law, which protects the disclosure of confidential sources of information, are sustained in part and overruled in part. See 42 Pa. Stat. § 5942. Defendant makes the novel argument that the Shield Law protects the identity of persons who worked on the alleged defamatory article because they are also “sources.”
“However, under Defendant’s interpretation of the statute, every “malicious or negligent defamer would have carte blanche to withhold from judicial scrutiny” the identity of any person who contributed to a defamatory story so long as they were also considered a “source.” See Hatchard v. Westinghouse Broad. Co., 516 Pa. 184, 194 (Pa. 1987). The Court rejects this interpretation because it would “make it close to impossible for individuals to seek redress against the media for maliciously or negligently publishing false statements that seriously damage the reputations of individuals.” Id. at 192.
“If any reporters/editors are also sources of information for the article in this case, the Shield Law protects that fact from disclosure. Defendant does not need to link which portions of
“1. Plaintiff’s letter-request, ECF No. 88, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as follows: a. Within 20 days of this order, Defendant must sit for an additional deposition of no more than three hours. i. Defendant Ude is directed to answer all questions at this deposition unless specifically told not to by his counsel 2 due solely to objection as to the article were sourced from reporters/editors. Defendant does not even need to identify whether any portions of the article were sourced from reporters/editors. However, the Shield Law does not protect the identity of persons who contributed to or worked on the article and the identity of such persons may not be withheld from disclosure. form of the question (during the previous deposition of Jackson Ude held on December 21, 2021, all parties stipulated at page 3 of the deposition transcript that “all objections except as to form, are reserved to the time of trial”).
- Defendant’s counsel is prohibited from making any speaking objections at this deposition, and Defendant’s counsel is prohibited from coaching the Defendant during the deposition.
“b. All other requests in Plaintiff’s letter, ECF No. 88, are denied.”