Today, for the umpteenth time, the legal teams of Dan Rather and CBS appeared back in court in lower Manhattan, for yet another round of legal gymnastics over Mr. Rather’s $70 million civil suit against his former employers.
Nearly two weeks ago, on April 10, Justice Ira Gammerman of the New York Supreme Court made his first major ruling in the case, dismissing 4 of Mr. Rather’s 7 initial causes for action (including the claim of fraud) while allowing several issues (including breach of contract) to move forward.
At the time, lawyers for CBS were quick to claim victory for having knocked down several major aspects of the suit; Mr. Rather’s legal team pointed out that the $70 million claim remained on the table.
In today’s session in front of the Justice, according to attorney’s from both sides, Justice Gammerman allowed limited discovery to proceed regarding (a) contractual issues and (b) CBS’s internal investigation (called the Boccardi-Thornburgh report) during the aftermath of the flawed story on 60 Minutes II from November 2004 about President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard duty.
Afterwards, Jim Quinn, lawyer for CBS, said he and his clients were fine with the Justice’s decision regarding discovery.
"We are gratified that the judge has significantly limited the scope of discovery to matters still pending before the court," said CBS in a statement. "We are also pleased the court affirmed its dismissal of the fraud claim. We will contest any attempts by Mr. Rather to recast this claim, and we are confident that we will prevail."
As for Mr. Rather and his legal team, they were upbeat.
"The Court’s rulings today make clear that Mr. Rather’s lawsuit following the Court’s April 10 opinion is not just a ‘garden variety contract claim,’ as CBS previously announced," said Mr. Rather’s lawyer Martin Gold in a statement. "The Court has allowed discovery to proceed with respect to Mr. Rather’s allegations about deficiencies in the Thornburgh Panel’s investigation of the Bush Air National Guard broadcast, including depositions of the two panelists, Louis Boccardi and Richard Thornburgh, as well as witnesses interviewed by the Panel."
"I’m focused on the big picture here," added Mr. Rather. "The facts alleged in the complaint remain, the punitive and compensatory damages remain, discovery continues and depositions are on the horizon. I feel pretty good."