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SAVANNAH, Tenn. — After a brief hearing yesterday, Circuit Judge Julian P. Guinn removed himself from the case of Jones v. Hays et al – the $165 million lawsuit brought against WorldNetDaily, reporters Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays, and other defendants, by Tennessee Democratic Party official and Al Gore crony Clark Jones.

The move, made in response to Thompson and Hays’ motion that Guinn recuse himself from the case, clears the way for the Tennessee Supreme Court to appoint a special judge in the matter.

As WND reported yesterday, the motion for recusal was brought by Memphis attorney Sam F. Cole, Jr., who has associated with the United States Justice Foundation to allow the California-based attorneys to practice in Tennessee. USJF, seeing the case as having major First-Amendment significance nationally, has taken on the defense of reporters Hays and Thompson.

Cole argued that under Tennessee case law, the perception of a conflict of interest is sufficient grounds to force a judge to remove himself from the case. Although the plaintiff’s attorney, Curt Hopper, argued vehemently against the recusal, Judge Guinn granted the motion and stepped aside.

The multimillion-dollar case was brought by Clark Jones, a Savannah, Tenn., car dealer and former Tennessee State Democratic Party official. A comprehensive investigative series on Al Gore by Thompson and Hays, published by WorldNetDaily.com during the closing months of the November 2000 presidential election, reported that Jones had allegedly been under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as a drug dealer. Jones vehemently denied dealing drugs, but TBI Deputy Director Ed Holt confirmed that such an investigation had taken place.

Jones, who had raised more than $100,000 for Gore’s campaign and, sources say, frequently bragged to other Tennessee businessmen about his close links to Gore, was reportedly humiliated by Gore’s loss of his home state, which cost Gore the election. The Thompson and Hays series on Gore and his cronies, including Jones, arguably played a significant factor in Gore’s loss, according to some Tennessee political observers.

Jones filed the lawsuit last spring.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that the No. 1 independent Internet newssite was targeted by powerful and wealthy friends of the losing presidential candidate – and that the suit pertained to an investigative series that may well have cost that candidate the Electoral College votes he needed for victory,” commented WorldNetDaily Editor and CEO Joseph Farah.

As a result of yesterday’s court action, all parties are now awaiting the selection of a new judge before further steps are taken.

Readers wishing to make donations to help offset the enormous legal costs involved in the defense of this high-profile First-Amendment case may make a tax-deductible donation directly to the U.S. Justice Foundation.

Alternatively, donations can be made (but not tax-deductible) to WND’s Legal Defense Fund online, by calling WND toll-free at 1-877-909-1776, or by mailing a check, made payable to WorldNetDaily Legal Defense Fund, to: WorldNetDaily.com, Inc., P.O. Box 409, Cave Junction, OR 97523.

Related stories:

U.S. Justice Foundation joins WND lawsuit

Gore crony sues WND

WND lawsuit hurts ‘innocent bystanders’

Help defend WorldNetDaily

Related columns:

Strike 1 against 1st Amendment

Will WND be muzzled?

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