Former Commonwealth Attorney General Justin Gleeson, SC, will lead the legal team defending the ABC against a federal libel lawsuit filed by Attorney General Christian Porter in a major coup for the broadcaster.
The Mr. Gleeson’s appointment adds considerable firepower to ABC’s defense team, which includes veteran Victorian defamation attorney Renee Enbom, SC, who served for actor Rebel Wilson, and Sydney attorney Clarissa Amato, who is well-versed at Acting for media defendants like Nine and the ABC.
The team is overseen by in-house attorney and former Minter Ellison partner Grant McAvaney, the broadcaster’s disputes and litigation director.
According to a federal court case on Wednesday the ABC has a little more than six weeks without a hearing, but with the consent of the parties, to submit his written defense. The court appears to be speeding up the case filed on Monday.
A trial date has not yet been set. The ABC is due to file its written defense by May 4th, and a response from Mr. Porter’s attorneys is due on May 11th.
The case will be listed for a preliminary court hearing on May 14th. It is not impossible that a trial will take place before the end of the year unless the matter is resolved.
Mr. Gleeson was Attorney General during the Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull administrations. The Attorney General provides independent advice on legal issues of national importance and is the government’s highest-ranking legal advisor after the Attorney General. It is not a political role.
Mr Gleeson said in an opinion piece published March 11 in The Guardian that the Prime Minister should seek advice from the current Attorney General regarding the legal authority of the government to commission an investigation into Mr Porter give. Eligibility to take office and what might such an investigation look like?
He resigned as attorney general in October 2016 after arguing with then attorney general George Brandis, who issued a legally binding directive to the ministers , including the Prime Minister, from seeking advice from Mr Gleeson without his written consent. The directive has been widely condemned by legal experts who have raised concerns that it could result in the Attorney General being « frozen ». to advise the government.
Mr. Porter filed defamation proceedings in federal court on Monday. In a statement of claim, attorneys are seeking damages, including increased damages, from Mr. Porter’s vacation, for an article dated Feb. 26 posted on the ABC website under the heading « Scott Morrison. » Senators and AFP reported historical rape allegations against cabinet ministers. ABC journalist Louise Milligan, who broke the story, is also named as a party to the lawsuit.
Mr. Porter, who is not named in the ABC article, has senior Sydney attorneys Bret Walker, SC, and Sue Chrysanthou, SC and senior defamation attorney Rebekah Giles. Mr. Walker is one of Sydney’s most famous silks and is regularly briefed by the governments.
Ms. Chrysanthou and Ms. Giles have acted successfully for a number of high profile defamation plaintiffs, including many women, including Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, against former Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm.
Mr Porter’s allegation alleges that the ABC article made a number of false and defamatory claims about him, including that he brutally killed a 16-year-old girl in 1988 raped he was 17 and this contributed to her suicidal death.
Mr Porter’s attorneys say the article also conveyed that he was « reasonably suspected by the police ». the rape that justified criminal charges against him and there were « reasonable grounds for suspicion » ???? both that he committed the crime and that it contributed to [the woman’s] suicide.
Mr Porter has allegations made by a woman that he had her during a debating tournament in Sydney Raped in 1988, vigorously rejected. The woman took her own life last year after telling NSW police that she did not want to pursue her complaint.
In a statement on Monday, Porter’s attorney, Ms. Giles, said it was open to the ABC of advocating for the truth of these claims and effectively turning the case into a rape trial within a defamation case.
The broadcaster is unlikely to invoke the truth. In almost all high profile defamation cases, a media defendant will argue that he did not make a plaintiff’s alleged claim but made a less serious one, such as that there were reasonable grounds for an investigation.
There may also be attempts to prosecute relied on the defense of qualified public interest-style privileges, which in some cases includes implicit constitutional freedom of communication in government and political matters.
Mr. Gleeson is a seasoned constitutional attorney and well-positioned to make arguments about implicit freedom and freedom To deliver the protection of journalism of public interest.
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