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Nearly a month after Sean Penn sued “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels for suggesting that he abused women, Daniels has asked for the case to be moved into federal court, according to

“Wherefore, defendant, Lee Daniels, files this Notice of Removal and respectfully requests that the Action now pending in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, be removed and proceed in its entirety before the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York,” said lawyers for The Butler director Tuesday in filings (read here) in New York state court.

This marks Daniels’ first response to Penn’s defamation lawsuit filed September 22 and comes days before any official answer to the actor’s $10 million complaint seeking damages is required.

“Daniels denies any and all liability to Penn,” his attorneys James Sammataro and Jose Garcia-Tunon at the Miami office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan say in court docs filed on Oct. 20.

The lawyers also state that federal statute distinctly allows for a removal request from state to federal court. Under the U.S.C., a case can be moved in such a manner when the participants live in different states (Penn lives in California and Daniels in New York). A case can also be shifted from jurisdiction to jurisdiction when “there is a reasonable probability that the claim exceeds the sum or value of $75,000,” as is the case here.

As previously reported, the case was sparked when Daniels suggested in an interview that people were overreacting to Empire star Terrence Howard’s past allegations of domestic violence. Howard “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f*ckin’ demon,” Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

While Penn may have decked a pap or two, he has “never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest,” his defamation suit stated.

For Penn to win the case, his lawyers will have to show that Daniels knew what he was saying was false.

Now, we wait to see if New York courts agree to move the case.

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