Alan Dershowitz may have lost his battle to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre—who claims Jeffrey Epstein kept her as his “sex slave” and forced her to have sex with Dershowitz.
But the Harvard Law professor scored his own victory: persuading a federal judge to disqualify Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, and his firm, from her case.
In an opinion filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said she would deny Dershowitz’s motion to dismiss the case—Dershowitz claims Giuffre is lying about having sex with him and tried to extort him—but grant his motion to disqualify Boies’ firm. It was a blow to Boies, who’s sparred with Dershowitz for decades, and Sigrid McCawley, a partner at the firm who represents multiple victims of Epstein.
In a statement, McCawley said her firm would appeal Preska’s decision to remove them from Giuffre’s litigation in Manhattan federal court.
“Today’s decision rejects Alan Dershowitz’s chronic capacity to make this case about anything but the facts and what he has been accused of by our client, Virginia Giuffre. The defamation case against Alan Dershowitz is going forward and he will have to face justice,” McCawley, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, said in a statement.
“The decision, however, to disqualify our firm, which has had the privilege of representing Virginia and advocating for her brave voice and continued call for justice, is deeply disappointing and it will be promptly appealed.”
The order comes almost a month after Giuffre’s and Dershowitz’s legal teams faced off during oral arguments, after which Dershowitz held a press conference and accused Giuffre and her advocates of doing “a terrible disservice” to the #MeToo movement.
Boies and his firm have represented Giuffre for years, including in a separate defamation suit filed against Epstein’s alleged madame, Ghislaine Maxwell. (A cache of court records in that case were unsealed last summer, providing a deeper look into the sexual abuse allegations against Epstein and his powerful friends.)
Dershowitz, 81, argued the 78-year-old Boies should be booted from his case based on a conflict of interest: He was briefly a client of Boies’ firm and says he provided an attorney with confidential information related to his fight against Giuffre’s accusations. The professor also argued Boies and his firm’s attorneys would be called as witnesses in Giuffre’s case.
The latter argument was more significant, according to Preska’s order, which noted, “Because disqualification is so clearly required under the advocate-witness rule, the Court does not reach the conflict of interest argument advanced by Dershowitz.”
According to the rule, an attorney cannot represent a party where the attorney will be called as a witness. “The rule differentiates between an attorney who will be called on behalf of his client and an attorney who will be called as a witness other than on behalf of his client,” Preska wrote in her order.
“A lawyer may also not act as an advocate where ‘another lawyer in the lawyer’s firm is likely to be called as a witness on a significant issue other than on behalf of the client, and it is apparent that the testimony may be prejudicial to the client,’” Preska added.
In her complaint, Giuffre said Dershowitz’s statements that she conspired with her lawyers to extort him and Epstein’s associate and client Les Wexner are false. She also referenced a secretly-recorded phone call between Dershowitz and Boies; Dershowitz says Boies declared on the call that Giuffre was “simply wrong” in her accusation, while Giuffre has said Boies’ assertions were taken “out of context.”
“By so pleading, Giuffre made the truth of these statements … a necessary—indeed essential—part of the Complaint,” Preska ruled.
“Dershowitz’s allegation of an extortion conspiracy is no mere throwaway line,” the judge added of Giuffre’s complaint, which was filed in April. “Giuffre explicitly characterizes Dershowitz’s ‘central assertion’ as the facts that Giuffre committed perjury and that she and her attorneys ‘hatched a scheme to falsely accuse Dershowitz of sex trafficking as part of a criminal attempt to extort a settlement from another party.’”
Giuffre must prove at trial that Boies Schiller Flexner (BSF) lawyers didn’t participate in the extortion scheme Dershowitz has alleged.
“Either way, BSF is immersed in the facts it pled,” Preska stated.
“Again it is essential to follow the litigation jujitsu at work here,” the judge continued. “Giuffre says Dershowitz defamed her by falsely saying she and BSF engaged in an extortion scheme; Dershowitz says he said it and it is true. Giuffre’s burden is to prove it is false in the face of Dershowitz’s vehement claim that it is true.”
According to Preska’s order, new counsel for Giuffre and Dershowitz’s legal team must submit a proposed discovery plan by Nov. 13.
Giuffre released a statement on Wednesday following the ruling: “I am grateful for the Court's decision to deny Alan Dershowitz’s shameful attempt to dismiss my defamation case against him. I will no longer be silenced. I will no longer be shamed. I will see Alan Dershowitz in a court of law," she said.
"But I am dismayed by the Court's decision in this case to deprive me of my counsel. For over five years, my lawyers at Boies Schiller Flexner have worked tirelessly to bring Jeffrey Epstein and his co-conspirators to justice. When it was not in vogue and not a breaking news story, my lawyers Sigrid McCawley and David Boies stood up to the muscle of the Epstein machine and its grip on the legal system. It is no surprise that Alan Dershowitz, who was part of Epstein's ecosystem of power and privilege, is attempting to manipulate the legal system in the face of the serious charges I have brought against him. The reckoning of accountability has begun and today's decision will be appealed.”
Dershowitz’s attorney, Imran H. Ansari, said the academic is "pleased" with Preska's decision to remove Boies from the case. “Disqualification is clearly required by the advocate-witness rule and by the very allegations made by the Plaintiff in her own Complaint," Ansari said in a statement. "Professor Dershowitz will call David Boies and his colleagues at trial to prove that their client—in Boies’ own words—is 'wrong… simply wrong' in accusing him. Any appeal taken of Judge Preska’s decision regarding disqualification will be met with stiff opposition by Professor Dershowitz."
Meanwhile, Dershowitz argued Giuffre’s complaint should be dismissed because the statements he made in 2018 and 2019—calling her a “total liar” who fabricated allegations against him for money—are “substantially identical” to statements he made in 2015 and therefore barred under the statute of limitations.
Yet, Preska’s order states that Dershowitz “admits he took affirmative steps to republish his prior statements to defend himself and his reputation by influencing new audiences or re-influencing old audiences.”
“Said differently, Dershowitz went looking for trouble, and by his repeated affirmative republications, he found it.”