(This April 12 story corrects name of judge in third paragraph)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An April 2023 jury trial has been scheduled in Dominion Voting Systems Inc’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit accusing Fox News of trying to boost its ratings by falsely claiming the voting machine company rigged the 2020 U.S. presidential election against former President Donald Trump.
In a short written order issued on Friday, Delaware state court judge Eric Davis said he was scheduling Denver-based Dominion’s lawsuit for trial on April 17, 2023. Fox, part of Fox Corp, had asked Owens for a trial date in early 2024.
Davis set aside five weeks for the trial, which could be the first of several involving baseless claims made by a variety of news outlets and individuals about Dominion’s technology. Dominion filed its lawsuit against Fox News in March 2021.
People associated with Trump’s campaign, including lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, floated conspiracy theories that Dominion rigged vote totals in the weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020, election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Trump.
Dominion has filed defamation lawsuits against several Trump allies, including Giuliani and Powell, as well as conservative television networks Newsmax and One America News. Another election technology firm at the center of conspiracy theories, Smartmatic, has filed similar lawsuits.
The defendants have said they were commenting on matters of public concern and their remarks are free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Davis in December ruled against a Fox News request that he dismiss Dominion’s lawsuit. Owens wrote in his ruling that it was “reasonably conceivable” that Dominion has a viable defamation claim, and allowed the company to continue to seek documents and witness testimony from Fox.
Fox News representatives have called Dominion’s lawsuit “baseless” and have said the network remains committed to defending itself.
“As we have maintained, FOX News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis,” a Fox spokesperson said in December.
Fox News and Dominion representatives did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham)