Porter case delayed over lawyer fight
Christian Porter's defamation lawsuit against the ABC has been delayed while a friend of the woman who accused him of rape attempts to remove his barrister from the case.
Justice Jayne Jagot adjourned a planned case management hearing in the Federal Court on Friday morning after Jo Dyer, the director of Adelaide Writers Week, this week filed a separate legal action against defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou.
Ms Dyer is seeking an injunction preventing Ms Chrysanthou from acting for Mr Porter on the basis she gave the barrister confidential information relevant to the defamation case in the course of a lawyer-client relationship last year.
The unexpected legal tussle comes ahead of a highly-anticipated hearing on June 1 where the former attorney-general will fight to strike out parts of the ABC's defence.
Justice Jagot initially said on Friday she was minded to either stay the proceedings until Ms Dyer's application was resolved, or at least extract an undertaking from Ms Chrysanthou that she would stop working on the case in the meantime.
But sparks flew as eminent barrister Bret Walker entered the court to tell Justice Jagot her initial view was "wrong in principle, and seriously so".
Mr Walker, who represented Cardinal George Pell in his successful High Court appeal, told the judge either of her options would set a "dreadful precedent", effectively allowing any random person to insist a barrister be temporarily barred from appearing in a case.
Justin Gleeson, acting for the ABC, said there was a clear relation between the two cases and Ms Dyer's communications with Mr Porter's accuser and journalist Louise Milligan were "an important part of the issues".
He said if Ms Dyer's application ended in a finding that Ms Chrysanthou should never have been involved in Mr Porter's case, every time the barrister appeared in court presented "a risk to the administration of justice".
"It is a harm that is very difficult to unwind after the event," he said.
Ms Dyer's proposed injunction will be argued over a three-day hearing beginning on May 24.
Justice Jagot said she accepted that "to some extent the eggs are already scrambled" but Mr Gleeson's proposal that "we shouldn't be adding more eggs to the bowl" was compelling.
She simply adjourned the hearing rather than staying the case or asking Ms Chrysanthou for an undertaking.
Mr Porter is suing the ABC over a story in which Ms Milligan reported a senior cabinet minister was the subject of an historical rape allegation.
Mr Porter stepped forward to say he was the accused minister after days of speculation. He contends he was identifiable in the article despite not being named.
He alleges the ABC defamed him by falsely suggesting he had brutally raped the 16-year-old in 1988, that police reasonably suspected him of doing so and that it contributed to the woman taking her own life.
More to come.
Originally published as Porter case delayed over lawyer fight