Amy Coney Barrett’s Husband Is Representing Fox in a Lawsuit

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s husband is currently representing Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, in a defamation lawsuit, according to court records reviewed by Rolling Stone. The lawsuit relates to reports by one of Fox’s local stations.

Jesse Barrett is a trial lawyer and managing partner at SouthBank Legal. He heads the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, which opened after Justice Barrett joined the high court. While the SouthBank Legal website says that Jesse Barrett “focuses on white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation,” it notes, in a recent addition, that he has “represented a prominent media company in a lawsuit alleging defamation.”

That prominent media company is Fox Corp., which owns the conservative cable news channel Fox News. Fox News regularly covers matters at the Supreme Court and will surely continue to do so as the high court nears the end of its term. It is set to issue rulings soon on a slate of controversial topics, such as abortion, guns, public corruption, and whether Donald Trump is entitled to immunity for life for acts he committed as president.

Jesse Barrett’s work for Fox Corp. highlights one of ethics experts’ biggest complaints about the Supreme Court: Justices are not required to disclose their spouses’ clients, so the public has no way to track who is paying money directly to their families. In her 2021 financial disclosure, Justice Barrett even redacted the name of her husband’s firm, despite it being common knowledge that he works there.

The lack of disclosure surrounding spouses’ business dealings has been a repeated source of ethical concerns, particularly with Justice Clarence Thomas. His wife, Ginni Thomas, has reportedly received consulting payments from conservative legal activist Leonard Leo, and ran a nonprofit that was reportedly funded by billionaire Harlan Crow. Both Leo and Crow have been at the center of the ethics controversies plaguing the Supreme Court over the past year.

It is no secret that Jesse Barrett represents corporate interests: His firm bio says his “clients have included multiple Fortune 500 companies and corporate executives.” The Southbank Legal website says that the firm has represented 26 Fortune 500 companies.

The public has no way to identify Barrett’s clients, for the most part. However, federal court records show that Barrett is serving as Fox Corp.’s lead counsel in an ongoing defamation case. He had the case moved from Cook County, Illinois, to federal court late last month.

Barrett and Fox Corp. did not respond to requests for comment.

The defamation case was filed by Lavell Redmond, an Illinois man who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault as a minor and served 24 years in prison. Redmond was hired as a code enforcement officer by the mayor of Dolton in 2021, the original complaint says.

He is suing Fox over a series of reports that scandalized his hiring — the first of which claimed he had been hired for “a job in which he goes into Dolton homes and businesses to inspect them.” The complaint says that “as a code enforcement officer, Redmond was never responsible for entering village resident’s homes to do his job, nor did he ever enter village resident’s homes. Redmond only had the ability to observe home exteriors to write code violations.”

Redmond alleges that “FOX 32’s reporting directly led to Redmond being arrested and wrongfully charged with violating the reporting requirements of the sex offender registry,” as well as his subsequent termination.

The complaint alleges Redmond has suffered more than $1 million in damages based on Fox’s reporting. His summons to Fox and its affiliates show he is seeking $3 million.

Barrett and Fox have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. They argue Redmond filed his lawsuit too late, and that the Fox station did not defame him because the “gist” of its reporting was “indisputably true, even if taking as true Redmond’s allegations that certain immaterial details were inaccurate.”

While Southbank Legal does not publicly disclose Barrett’s clients, its website indicates he has represented political and governmental clients, including: “a former elected official in a federal investigation involving alleged bribery in return for political favors,” “an executive of a military contractor in a federal investigation regarding alleged bribery in obtaining government contracts,” and “a senior government employee in connection with a grand jury investigation of an elected government official.”

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