Ava DuVernay and Netflix Formally Respond to When They See Us Lawsuit, Claim Dialogue Is Protected Under First Amendment

Ava DuVernay attends Netflix’s “When They See Us” Screening & Reception on August 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Charley Gallay (Getty Images for Netflix)

Netflix and When They See Us writer-director Ava DuVernay are fighting back on a lawsuit filed against them and the figurative punches are formal.

As The Root reported in October, police interrogation firm John E. Reid and Associates filed a lawsuit against DuVernay and the production company/streaming platform in regard to the hit miniseries, claiming defamation. The lawsuit specifically cited a particular scene where an investigator refers to the controversially coercive method, the Reid Technique, as “universally rejected.”

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According to Vulture, Netflix and DuVernay have now formally responded to the lawsuit, claiming the aforementioned dialogue, which was a stated opinion, in the award-winning miniseries is protected by the First Amendment and literary hyperbole.

Vulture reports:

In a Chicago district court filing, Netflix said the lawsuit is both unconstitutional and dangerous. “The dialogue at issue is fully protected speech under the First Amendment and is not actionable as a matter of law,” reads the filing. “Permitting this case to go forward would not only be contrary to law, it would have a profoundly chilling effect on core First Amendment speech.”

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Speaking of appropriately seeing someone as a fully-realized human being, Hollywood is continually having an issue with that when it comes to black people. DuVernay recently took to Twitter, noting that she had been mistaken for the directors of both Harriet and Queen & Slim by non-black people 11 different times so far. 11. Different. Times.

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“I’ve now been congratulated by non-black folks in Hollywood 11 different times about my direction of Harriet and Queen and Slim,” DuVernay tweeted on Tuesday. “When I share that I didn’t direct those films, that they are made by black women directors who are not me? Nervous chuckles. Apologies. This place…”.

As we know, the directors of those films are actually Kasi Lemmons and Melina Matsoukas, respectively. Neither of these three women look alike nor are their names remotely similar, so people washing their hands of this as an honest mistake certainly isn’t an option. It is lazy, racist and ignorant, especially in an era that is afforded with ample Google. Ugh…

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That said, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the progression of the lawsuit and will keep you posted on pertinent updates as they arise.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.