Hagaman v Little appeal rejected by Supreme Court

The defamation case Hagaman v Andrew Little has reached a conclusion in the Supreme Court, where an appeal on behalf of Earl Hagaman has been rejected.

In April 2017 a jury could not decide on some claims in a defamation case brought by Earl and Lani Hagaman against then Labour Party leader Andrew Little. The jury found that one comment wasn’t defamatory, one was but they couldn’t decide if ‘qualified privilege’ was an adequate defence, and they couldn’t decide at all on four other claims.

An appeal was filed, but not long after the trial (25 May) Earl Hagaman died.

Since then Lani Hagaman has tried to argue that an appeal should survive Mr Hagaman’s death, but has failed.

The Supreme Court ruling follows a Court of Appeal judgment in November:

[1] Does the late Mr Hagaman’s appeal against a High Court Judge’s ruling in a defamation trial survive his death? That is the question this judgment is concerned with.

Background

[2] Mr and Mrs Hagaman owned a large New Zealand hotel chain. In 2014 Mr Hagaman made a substantial donation to the governing National Party of New Zealand. The Hagamans’ hotel chain later received Niue Government funding to
upgrade a hotel in that country. The ultimate source of that funding was New Zealand Government aid assistance. The Leader of the Opposition Labour Party of New Zealand, Mr Little, drew a connection between these events in a series of six
public statements.

[3] The Hagamans issued proceedings in defamation against Mr Little in June 2016. Trial commenced in April 2017. During the trial Clark J ruled that the six statements were protected by qualified privilege. The jury were agreed that
Mrs Hagaman’s claims failed. They also agreed that two of Mr Hagaman’s six claims failed. But they could not agree on the other four. Judgment was entered in the High Court for Mr Little against Mrs Hagaman. No judgment was entered in relation to Mr Hagaman’s claim.

[4] The present appeal against the Judge’s ruling concerns one only of those four disagreed claims — the second cause of action. The appeal was filed in April 2017. Mr Hagaman died in May 2017. Although his personal representatives have not yet been substituted as appellants, they are responsible for the present conduct of the appeal and accept responsibility for any costs ordered on it.

[5] The question trail on the second cause of action given to the jury by the Judge, and the answers they gave, were as follows:
First named plaintiff (Earl Hagaman): Second cause of action
5. Do the words set out in paragraph 10 of the second amended Statement of Claim carry any of the meanings set out in paragraph 11?
[YES]
6. If the answer to any of issue 5 is “Yes”, is that meaning defamatory of the first named plaintiff (Earl Hagaman)?
[YES]
7. If the answer to issue 6 is “Yes” was the defendant (Andrew Little) motivated by ill-will towards the first named plaintiff (Earl Hagaman) or, did the defendant take improper advantage of the occasion of publication?
[NO ANSWER]
8. If the answer to issue 7 is “Yes”, then assess:
(iii) General damages $
(iv) Exemplary damages $
[NO ANSWER]

[6] The practical question we must decide is whether the jury answers on the second cause of action amount to a verdict for Mr Hagaman. We will now explain why this point matters.

When does an appeal in a defamation claim survive death?

[7] The old common law rule was that personal actions in tort (including defamation) abate upon the death of the plaintiff (or the defendant): actio personalis moritur cum persona. The rationale for the rule is that such an action is personal to the victim and his or her tortfeasor, and should not devolve to their estates. Professor Pollock called it a “barbarous rule”. The effect of the rule, as we will see, rather depended on the stage the claim had reached.

[8] The rule was abolished in part by statute in 1936, permitting the continuation of an action despite the death of a party.

[9] Defamation is excluded from the reforming effect of s 3(1). That simply means that the reform (creating a new statutory survival rule for other torts) does not apply to it. For defamation the old common law rule continues.

[10] Whether a defamation claim abates with death or not ultimately depends on the stage the proceeding has reached.

Does Mr Hagaman’s appeal survive his death?

[14] We are concerned only with the second cause of action. Mr Tizard for Mr Little submits there is neither verdict nor judgment on that cause of action. It follows it has abated and the appeal must be dismissed. Mr Fowler QC for Mr Hagaman’s representatives submits that although there is no judgment, the cause of action does not abate because there is at least a verdict. He submits that the jury answers constitute a special verdict finding that Mr Hagaman was defamed by Mr Little.

[15] A special verdict is one where the jury is asked to respond with answers to a series of questions rather than simply stating whether they find for the plaintiff and in what amount.

[16] But an incomplete set of answers will not amount to a verdict for one party or the other. A verdict is a conclusive determination of all factual issues within a cause of action, for one party or the other. The verdict can then be perfected by entry of judgment. In defamation a verdict for the plaintiff must include the jury’s award of damages; otherwise it is incomplete and void.

[17] It is evident that in this case the jury was asked by the Judge to respond to a series of questions, the intended result of which would be a special verdict on each cause of action. This produced verdicts for Mr Little on the causes of action alleged by Mrs Hagaman. It also produced verdicts for Mr Little on the fifth and sixth causes of action alleged by Mr Hagaman. Here the jury, asked questionse, answered either that the words did not bear the meaning alleged or that the meaning was not defamatory. That meant, as the question trail makes clear, that the jury had no more work to do. The answers were complete, even though not all questions had been answered.

[18] The same cannot be said of the second cause of action. The jury’s work was incomplete. Having answered the first two questions affirmatively, they had to go on and answer the third. But they could not agree on it. That is not a special verdict, because there is no conclusive answer on that cause of action. No judgment upon it could be pronounced.

[19] It follows that no verdict was given on the second cause of action. It therefore abates with the death of Mr Hagaman. No appeal may now be advanced upon it. As the whole of the appeal is confined to that cause of action, it also follows that the appeal itself must be dismissed.

Result

[20] The appeal is dismissed.

[21] The appellant’s estate must pay the respondent costs for a standard appeal on a band A basis and usual disbursements.

This decision was appeared in the Supreme Court. RNZ: Little defamation appeal rejected by Supreme Court

A bid by the late Earl Hagaman’s estate to continue a defamation case against former Labour leader Andrew Little has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Mr Hagaman – who died in May last year – and his wife Lianna-Merie sued Mr Little for statements made about a hotel contract.

A jury was not able to reach a conclusive verdict.

Mr Hagaman’s widow tried to continue the case, taking it to the Court of Appeal.

It ruled the case could not continue after Mr Hagaman’s death and the decision was taken to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision today said the arguments by Mr Hagaman’s representatives were not sufficient to warrant a retrial.

Mr Little has been awarded costs.

So a win and costs award for Little, but it will have (hopefully) been a lesson to him. He will obviously not want to be taken to Court again, especially now he is Minister of Justice and Minister for Courts.

Williams v Craig appeal

The appeal in the Jordan Williams v Colin Craig defamation case started today.

RNZ: Colin Craig defamation case back in court

In September last year a jury in the High Court at Auckland found Mr Craig had defamed Mr Williams and awarded Mr Williams damages of $1.27 million.

However earlier this year the court ruled that amount was unreasonably high, constituting a miscarriage of justice.

The highest previous defamation award was $825,000 granted to the Auckland accountant Michael Stiassny in 2008.

In her review of the case in April Justice Katz said the damages awarded were well outside any reasonable range by a significant margin.

So it has gone to appeal.

Jordan Williams’ lawyer, Peter McKnight told the Court of Appeal today that Justice Katz had not misdirected the jury and even if she did, it was not on a level requiring a retrial, as sought by Mr Craig.

“There was a very clear determination by the jury as to liability. It is suggested it would be a serious injustice to Mr Williams if he lost the advantages of those findings,” Mr McKnight said.

Justice Harrison questioned why the case had come before a jury in the first place.

“It should have been judge alone from the outset then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

He also raised what should happen next if the Court of Appeal decides Justice Katz was correct to set aside the damages awarded against Colin Craig.

“Enough judicial resources have been wasted on it already and it would be most unfortunate to have to go through another trial.”

“What we want to know is do we have jurisdiction to order she has [the power] to settle all outstanding issues.”

A lot of time and court resources have gone into what is largely a political spat.

Stuff:  Jury must have ignored judge’s defamation case directions, court told

 

Williams’ lawyer, Peter McKnight, suggested the Court of Appeal could assess the damages, or another High Court jury could be asked to do so, using the first jury’s findings of facts, and hearing evidence only from Williams and Craig. Craig objected to having the trial judge set damages.

At the appeal hearing, one of the judges, Justice Rhys Harrison, said the court recognised the integrity of the jury’s verdict on Craig’s liability, and its provisional view was that Williams was entitled to that verdict unless the court was persuaded Justice Katz had made a wrong legal ruling on one of Craig’s potential defences.

Not surprisingly Williams wants it over as soon as possible, retaining the jury verdict and having damages set. Id that happens they are going to be less but could still be substantial.

Craig’s lawyer, Stephen Mills, QC, thought the case should be started again. The first jury’s decisions looked as if they had not followed the judge’s directions.

Mills said that, after the jury finished its work at the High Court in Auckland in 2016, Justice Sarah Katz had commented that the jury must have hated Craig to have decided as it did.

Mills said the judge had misdirected the jury about a possible defence, but he also agreed that it appeared the jury did not follow the judge’s directions in any event.

And Craig wants a new trial, giving him a second shot at winning, and at worst having the damages award reduce.

The appeal will continue tomorrow.

Williams appealing defamation decision

Jordan Williams has announced he is going to appeal the judgment to set aside the jury decision in the defamation case Williams v Craig, saying he doesn’t want witnesses to have to go through a new trial and an appeal is “the best way forward”. His other option was to walk away with nothing but a huge legal bill.

In general for the public I think this is a good path to take, as the Court of Appeal will help clarify issues of defamation and of appropriate awards.

In September 2016 a jury awarded Williams a total of $1.27 million having found that he was defamed on two counts by Colin Craig.

On count one, the jury ordered $400,000 be paid in compensation caused for the injury to Williams’ reputation and feelings and $90,000 in punitive damages for Craig’s “flagrant disregard” of Jordan’s rights.

On count two, they ruled Craig pay $650,000 in compensation and $130,000 in punitive damages.

At the time Nick R (a lawyer) commented at Kiwiblog:

Court of Appeal can reduce any award of damages it considers to be manifestly excessive. It has done so before for jury awards in defamation cases. The CA has previously indicated that damages in defamation cases in NZ should be modest in the absence of evidence of actual pecuniary loss. That’s why I expect them to reduce this award, potentially by quite a lot.

Immediately following the verdicts Craig’s counsel requested that Judge Katz defer entering judgment as they intended applying to have the jury’s verdict set aside, so the judge deferred entering judgment.

Craig’s counsel subsequently applied to have the verdict set aside, and six months later, on 12 April 2017, Judge Katz delivered a judgment ruling that the damages awards were so high that they constituted a miscarriage of justice.

[109] …I am satisfied that the damages award is well outside the range that could reasonably have been justified in all the circumstances of the case. The consequence is that a miscarriage of justice has occurred. The jury’s verdicts must therefore be set aside and a retrial ordered, unless both parties are willing to consent to my substituting a new damages award in place of the jury’s award.

Result

[112] The parties are to file memoranda by 3.00 pm on Wednesday 26 April 2017 advising whether they consent to the Court substituting its own award of damages for the jury’s award, pursuant to s 33 of the Act. If confirmation is not received by that date that both parties consent to such a course, then I order that the jury’s verdicts be set aside and the proceedings be set down for a re-trial on the first available date that is convenient to senior counsel.

Craig immediately indicated he would not consent to the Court substituting it’s own award of damages, and it has now been confirmed that he has advised the court that he wouldn’t consent, and Williams put out a press release saying he didn’t want another trial, but would instead appeal Judge Katz’s judgment.

Statement from Jordan Williams

Lawyers for Jordan Williams are appealing the judgment setting aside last year’s jury verdict in the Williams v Craig defamation proceedings.

Mr Williams says, “Colin Craig argued that the jury’s damages award was too high. The judge agreed but the High Court is only able to reset the damages if both parties agree.”

“Last week Colin Craig’s lawyers told Justice Katz that Colin Craig was not willing to have her determine the damages; they want a full retrial.”

“I don’t want Rachel MacGregor or my mother or any other of my witnesses to have to go through it all again. The jury made clear findings. At every stage Mr Craig has wanted to stretch things out. We have no assurance he would not appeal after a new trial. So an appeal now could get to the key issues directly. It is the best way forward.”

It probably is the best way forward for Williams, but it has risks.

A new trial would presumably mean that there was no way that Williams could recover any costs from the first trial, and a new award would likely be significantly lower given Judge Katz’s judgment. Williams’ counsel would have had to seriously consider claiming significantly lower damages to avoid a repeat of the first trial.

NZ Herald have reported a response from Craig in: Jordan Williams appeals to try to avoid retrial in Colin Craig defamation case

Craig said Williams had every right to appeal, but he believed a retrial was the right way forward.

He said Justice Katz’s decision said a miscarriage of justice had occurred so he was not willing to accept the jury’s decision he had defamed Williams.

But Judge Katz said that the miscarriage of justice was due to the damages award being “well outside the range that could reasonably have been justified in all the circumstances of the case”, the Judge did not reject the jury’s decision that Craig had defamed Williams.

[110] In relation to Mr Craig’s second ground of challenge to the jury’s verdicts, I reject the submission that there was no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to support the jury’s finding that he had lost his qualified privilege…As a result, there is no basis for entering judgment in favour of Mr Craig (as opposed to ordering a retrial).

So on to an appeal. The Court of Appeal is limited on what it can rule on, I think just on points of law in the judgment. So presumably Williams will ask for the setting aside to be overruled. I don’t know if the amount of damages can be changed on appeal, or if it’s an all or nothing situation.

Judge Katz took months before delivering her Judgment, and is likely to have anticipated a likely appeal, so is likely to have taken a lot of care in her Judgment. That doesn’t rule out having made a mistake in law, but it may narrow the grounds for appeal.

In the meantime there is one other matter from her judgment that I don’t know if it is still relevant or not, costs.

[113] This outcome is likely to raise some difficult costs issues. Leave is accordingly reserved to file costs memoranda in relation to both the trial and the present application, if costs cannot be agreed. Any memorandum on behalf of Mr Williams is to be filed by 5 May 2017. Any memorandum on behalf of Mr Craig is to be filed by 19 May 2017. Counsel are to indicate in their memoranda whether a hearing is sought in respect of costs.

I have no idea what can or may happen with this, given the verdict has been set aside. Perhaps we will find out next month. Or perhaps it will have to wait for the outcome of the appeal.

The Judge Katz decision: http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/williams-v-craig/@@images/fileDecision

Hagamans want retrial, Little wants to campaign

Yesterday Lani Hagaman said that she favours a retrial in her and her husband Earl’s defamation claim against Andrew Little, and she may also appeal the finding on qualified privilege. This may be dependent on how long Earl stays alive.

Andrew Little wants to try to focus on campaigning for this year’s election.

NZ Herald: Lani Hagaman to push ahead with retrial in Andrew Little defamation case

In a statement, Mrs Hagaman said she had been advised the court would automatically arrange for the a retrial after the jury in the first trial was unable to reach a verdict on several of the six claims of defamation lodged by Mr Hagaman.

“While Earl is still alive I believe that it is important that every effort is made to bring his claims to completion, and I intend to do so.”

Mrs Hagaman also expected to appeal Justice Karen Clark’s decision to grant Andrew Little the defence of qualified privilege – a defence Little said was because of his “moral duty” as leader of the Opposition to question the Government.

“Because the jury was unable to reach verdicts on several of Earl’s claims, I am advised that the court now arranges automatically for those claims to be retried.

“The jury also reached a verdict that Earl was defamed by Andrew Little. However, contrary to the finding of the court on qualified privilege, my legal advice continues to be that Mr Little was not entitled to protection by that.

“As this matter remains unresolved, I believe it requires clarification.”

Clarification would help in a legal sense, but neither a retrial nor an appeal will help Little in a political sense.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he had seen Mrs Hagaman’s statement seeking a retrial.

“I have taken every opportunity to resolve this matter and I have faced up to my responsibilities.”

He said his priority now was the election and issues such as housing and health.

“Fixing these problems means changing the Government and that is my focus.

“As this matter could be subject to further court proceedings, I will not be commenting further.”

Little’s political future will depend to an extent on how long Earl Hagaman remains alive.

A retrial is unlikely before the election. I don’t know long it will take to have an appeal. But either hanging over Little over the next few months will be an unwelcome distraction for him.

Dotcom to appeal after High Court judgment

As expected Dotcom will appeal.


Media Statement From Dotcom Legal Team.

This case is no longer the “largest criminal copyright case”, 1 at least as far as New Zealand is concerned. As we have said all along, there is no such offence under our Copyright Act. We were right. However, this afternoon the High Court judgment 2 was issued and, ultimately, although it concluded we are right, 3 the Court concluded that Kim is still eligible for surrender.

To win the major plank 4 of the case but to get that outcome is extremely disappointing. However, we are far from defeated. It is hard to accept the logic that, if the conduct that all accept at its heart relates to assertions of breach of copyright is not an offence under that Act, how it can nonetheless be massaged into a general fraud offence. In fact, that thinking has been rejected outright in the Supreme Court in the United States.

The High Court has accepted that Parliament made a clear and deliberate decision not to criminalise this type of alleged conduct by internet service providers, 5 making them not responsible for the acts of their users. For the Court to then permit the same conduct to be categorised as a type of fraud in our view disrupts Parliament’s clear intent. The High Court decision means that Parliament’s intended protection for internet service providers is now illusory. That will be a concern for internet service providers and impact on everyone’s access to the internet.

The last hurdle to what we say is the correct outcome – no extradition – will now need to be determined by the Court of Appeal. We remain confident that this last point, which would prevent extradition in this complex and unprecedented legal case, will be resolved in Kim’s favour in a manner consistent with Parliament’s intent, international law and, importantly one might think, the United States’ own law.

Whilst many have struggled to get beyond the United States’ hype in this politically charged and misunderstood case, an objective observer will now realise that there is much more to this case than they were previously informed of from the District Court judgment.

Whether Kim has committed an offence under New Zealand copyright law has finally now been answered in his favour; he has not. Whether our law should still permit him to be extradited to the United States under an Act that has no interest in copyright, is the question that remains now to be answered by our Courts. We say no and we are confident that this must be right.

Whether you are a supporter of Kim’s or not, these are important principles of law for us all and the very issues that we need our justice system to grapple with if we want a credible and safe process for extradition to any requesting country, including those with whom we have a close commercial and political relationship.

Ron Mansfield, Barrister

Dotcom Legal Team

1 https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-charges-leaders-megaupload-widespread-online-copyright-infringement

2 Ortmann & Ors v United States of America [2017] NZHC 189.

3 See paragraphs [169]-[192] (in particular [192]).

4 See paragraph [591].

5 See paragraph [183].

Brexit appeal 5-8 December

A date has been set for the UK Government appeal against the ruling that Parliament must vote on Brexit – it will start in the Supreme Court on 5 December, is set down for four days, but it probably won’t be until the new year before a decision is made.

BBC: Brexit court ruling appeal date set for 5 December

The government’s appeal against the High Court ruling that MPs must vote on triggering Brexit will be heard in the Supreme Court from 5 December.

It will last four days, with the decision expected in the new year.

Theresa May has said she is “clear” she expects to start talks on leaving the EU as planned by the end of March.

Campaigners say MPs and peers have to scrutinise the government’s plans beforehand, but ministers say they can decide without this happening.

The High Court ruled last Thursday that Parliament should have a say before the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which triggers up to two years of formal EU withdrawal talks.

Labour has said it will not attempt to delay or scupper this process if a vote goes ahead. The prime minister has promised to invoke Article 50 by the end of next March.

The government said it was going to appeal almost as soon as the ruling came out and the Supreme Court has now granted permission – pushing through the process at a far faster pace than usual because of the importance of the case.

With the short time frame the Government will need to continuing planning for an exit by the end of March, hoping their appeal succeeds.

Appeal allowed against Filipo discharge

Today a High Court judge allowed the appeal against Losi Filipo’s discharge without conviction.

The High Court’s decision to set aside the discharge without conviction for Losi Filipo’s assault on four people means the Wellington rugby player could face jail.

Filipo, 18, pleaded guilty to an early-morning assault, which happened last October, when he was still at school.

He escaped conviction when he appeared in Wellington District Court in August, when Judge Bruce Davidson took into account the effect on the rugby career of the Wellington under-19 wing and fringe member of the Lions squad.

An appeal by the Crown was heard by Justice David Collins yesterday.

In a judgment delivered this afternoon, he said the appeal should be allowed, and set aside the discharge without conviction.

Having set aside the discharge, Justice Collins said he would normally substitute the District Court’s decision with his own, but Filipo had only pleaded guilty due to the sentence indication that he would be discharged without conviction.

He would allow Filipo to vacate his guilty plea if he wanted to, in which case the matter will be sent back to the District Court for trial.

In Justice Collins opinion, the starting point for sentencing should be two to two and half years’ imprisonment.

In the ruling, Justice Collins notes an affidavit from the head of the police prosecution service stating Filipo’s victims had notified police that they believed an appeal should be filed because the “factual basis of the sentencing was inaccurate”.

The police prosecution service explained that either through an oversight or miscommunication within the police prosecution service, Filipo’s case was not referred to the Solicitor-General when it should have been.

Justice Collins also noted the sentencing judge did not refer to the fact Filipo stomped on the head of one victim.

“Those stomps were particularly serious and occurred when Gregory Morgan was already unconscious. This is the most disturbing aspect of Losi Filipo’s behaviour. It was potentially lethal conduct and required specific consideration,” Justice Collins said in his notes.

More from NZ Herald High Court allows appeal to Losi Filipo discharge without conviction ruling

So if Filipo chooses to reverse his guilty plea the case will go back to the District Court for trial, otherwise Justice Collins will sentence Filipo.

Link to the decision: Police v Filipo [2016] NZHC 2573 (27 October 2016)

JUDGMENT OF COLLINS J

A The application for an extension of time to seek leave to appeal is granted.

B The appeal is allowed.

C The discharge without conviction is set aside.

Proportionality

[82] Fourth, Losi Filipo’s offending was serious and the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction were not so significant as to have been out of all proportion to the gravity of his offending.

[83] I am therefore drawn to the conclusion the appeal should be allowed.

Next steps

[84] Having determined the appeal is allowed the immediate consequence is that the decision discharging Losi Filipo without conviction is set aside.

[85] Normally I would substitute the decision of the District Court with the decision that I believe should have been made. In this case that would result in convictions. However, in the present case, Losi Filipo pleaded guilty after being given a sentence indication that he would be discharged without conviction. In these circumstances, the appropriate course of action is to allow Losi Filipo the opportunity to vacate his guilty plea if he so wishes. If Losi Filipo wishes to vacate his guilty plea then the case will be remitted back to the District Court for trial.

[86] I will resume the hearing of the appeal at 9.30 am on 2 November 2016 to enable a decision to be made as to whether or not the case will need to be remitted back to the District Court or if any sentencing should be dealt with in this court.

Slater explains Craig’s appeal problem

Bill Hodge, expert on defamation, has called the award of $1.27 million in damages against Colin Craig as “breathtaking, eye-watering and mind-boggling” and that it is potentially a landmark moment in New Zealand defamation history.

NZH: Craig’s ‘breathtaking’ $1.3m defamation damages could set New Zealand record, says legal expert

A Kiwi defamation expert says the $1.3 million in damages former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been ordered to pay Jordan Williams is “breathtaking” and could make legal history.

In what could end up being the largest sum ever paid in a Kiwi defamation case, Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Bill Hodge says yesterday’s decision is a landmark moment.

Describing the $1.3m sum as incredible, Hodge predicts legal experts around the globe will be tracking the case – which he thinks is far from over.

“It’s breathtaking, eye-watering and mind-boggling. These are all the adjectives I would use to describe the amount,” Hodge said.

Hodge says he expects the Craig decision will also be appealed in a notoriously complex and expensive area of New Zealand law.

“There will be an appeal,” Hodge said. “The legal issues are extremely significant because it’s the equivalent of a self-defence response.

“It’s a difficult area, defences in defamation particularly. It needs further examination as to the extent that someone can ‘hit back’.

“My personal opinion is that the jury decided Craig went over the top with his response. He might have had a legitimate response if it was measured and in the appropriate form.

“It’s a bit like he was slapped by Jordan and he pulled out an automatic weapon and fired all his shots.”

Cameron Slater, who is lining up his own defamation case against Craig and I think has attended the whole of the proceedings in Williams v Craig, has posted a number of times on it since the jury announced their finding.

One of his best explanations of the problems Craig face with appealing the jury decision was actually in a comment on one of these posts, Why Colin Craig is pissing in the wind.

Here is the problem. The jury was given what is called a Question Trail. That is a trail of questions they need to answer in a logical manner to step them through the legal complexity of defamation law. The judge spent two hours summing up and directing the jury on how to use this Question trail to come to their decisions.

The Question Trail was drafted by Craig’s lawyer, then approved by Jordan’s lawyer and then finally by the Judge. Mills drafted the Question Trail to start with the defence if Qualified Privilege, then move to truth when that failed and then to honest opinion after that.

The Question trail contained 14 questions, and there were two counts so the jury had to step through 28 questions and write up their reasoning beside each one and hand that tot eh judge after the verdict was given.

The first few questions stepped through qualified privilege. They would not have been required to step through any more questions if the jury had considered qualified privilege and decided it applied. They clearly passed through those questions after quite some time…they deliberated for 10 hours.

They also stepped through the truth and honest opinion and came to the conclusion that Colin Craig HAD defamed Jordan Williams.

Further they considered the defamation to so extreme, so outrageous and so deliberate that they decided to award punitive damages against Craig.

When this gets to the Court of Appeal Craig is going to find the judges will look at the punitive damages and decided accordingly. Same with the qualified privilege argument. Mills knows they considered it, he would have known that after the jury retired for the night the first day. After that he would have been counselling his client to prepare for a loss.

Why?

Because in his closing argument he spent precisely two and half minutes explaining to the jury the truth defence, 5 minutes on honest opinion and a massive 40 minutes on qualified privilege. Craig was totally and utterly relying on qualified privilege.

For those who don’t know qualified privilege can be lost. Firstly if you were motivated by ill will in your response. The evidence was clear on that. Colin was motivated by ill will and the jury must have agreed.

I think ill will is still debatable. The jury does seem to have agreed that it was ill will, and I haven’t heard all the evidence, but I think Craig’s motivation is possible more complex than simple ill will.

The second was to lose qualified privilege is the breadth of the response. Jordan Williams spoke to about 5 people about Craig, Craig thought an appropriate response was to call him a liar in 1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide. Now you can see why the jury decided he lost qualified privilege.

While Hodge and a number of others have agreed that the 1.6 million pamphlets look like an inappropriate response – I have always thought they were an inappropriate response since they were sent out – I think the key is whether it was disproportionate enough to justify a massive award.

Slater understates Williams actions – “Jordan Williams spoke to about 5 people about Craig” omits a key detail, one of those who Williams spoke to and gave evidence to was Slater, and that is almost certain to have been in the knowledge that Slater would post about it on Whale Oil. In court it was claimed that Williams threatened exposure via Whale Oil when asking Conservative Party officials to dump Craig.

So the comparison is “1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide” versus “speaking to “about 5 people” plus publication on Whale Oil, which has a significant readership and Williams and Slater will have known and probably hoped that mainstream media would pick up what was posted about Craig and give it wider publicity.

“1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide” is still greater than posting on line and getting widespread news coverage, and Craig also sought news coverage through his press conference, but is quite a bit closer than Slater implies. Still inappropriate, over the top and quite possibly still over the legal line as far as defamation goes, but the degree of excessiveness could be debated in Court of Appeal, along with the amount of the damages.

That left truth as a defence, which was gone the moment you examine the Mr X interview. And honest opinion was forlorn as well.

Colin Craig will likely appeal this, but he is also likely to lose that appeal.

It sounds like Craig intends to appeal. If he does I think it’s quite likely it won’t be fully successful, but I think the chances of an adjustment in the amount of damages are quite high.

But Williams advantage is that he will start an appeal process from a very high point. Even if the award was halved or even quartered it would still be substantial, especially if costs are also awarded against Craig.

Also up for debate, although I don’t know whether this will be covered in any appeal, is what sort a reputation Williams had and how much it could be reduced by Craig’s actions. How much was Williams’ reputation damaged by what Craig published, versus how much his reputation was confirmed by what was revealed in Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ (which has never been tested in court) and what was revealed in court.

Both the legal actions and the debate on this are probably far from over.

Dotcom extradition appeal closing

The Kim Dotcom extradition appeal seems to have dropped off the local media radar. If it wasn’t for Nelly prodding away here it would just about have been forgotten.

The closing arguments were heard in Court in Auckland this week.

Reuters: Dotcom’s appeal against extradition to U.S. winds up in New Zealand, ruling likely weeks away

Lawyers for German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, wanted in the United States on copyright infringement and money-laundering charges over his file-sharing website Megaupload, argued on Wednesday there was not enough evidence to show he conspired to commit a crime.

The Auckland court heard closing arguments in Dotcom’s four-week appeal against a lower court’s decision to extradite him to the U.S., the first New Zealand court proceedings to be broadcast live on the internet.

The appeal took place nearly five years after dozens of black-clad police rappelled into the flamboyant entrepreneur’s New Zealand mansion and cut him from a safe room.

U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material.

The four deny wrongdoing and are on bail.

The case has been closely watched by the media industry and developers in the file-sharing business for signs of how far the United States is willing to go to protect copyright holders.

The appeal set a precedent when the judge gave permission for the hearing to be streamed on YouTube, but legal experts at the time had warned that appeals hearings tend to be similar to “watching paint dry”.

Rodriguez Ferrere said the “monolithically boring” nature of the entire proceeding “turned everybody off”.

The final afternoon’s proceedings only attracted around 100 viewers online, according to YouTube.

If it wasn’t for Nelly’s efforts here it may have been far fewer.

“Given the stakes of this case, the losing party will likely appeal any adverse judgment to the Court of Appeal,” said Ira Rothken, a lawyer representing Dotcom, in an email.

Unless the US pulls the plug on proceedings it is likely to limp on for years.

Nelly can switch to watching grass grow while she waits for the ruling. At least it’s spring.

*DAY 7* of Kimmie’s *Extradition Appeal Hearing*

Unlike the media (or if they have I’ve barely noticed it) Nelly has been busy keeping us up to date with Kim Dotcom’s extradition appeal.

*DAY 7* of Kimmie’s *Extradition Appeal Hearing* live-streaming from 10am this morning.
And especially for the group, here’s a FAB photo of the *Man himself* taken yesterday with his beautiful daughter Kaylo …….*HAPPY 9TH BIRTHDAY KAYLO* from all of us here at YNZ ❤
https://twitter.com/KimDotcom/status/773781003215052800?lang=en

It may be day 7 of the live streaming but the live streaming links show that it must be day 10 of the extradition hearing, as yesterday’s Youtube link was Ortmann, Kim Dotcom, van der Kolk & Batato v USA & NSDC – High Court, Auckland, NZ, Day 9 8/9/2016

While Nelly is a Kimmie fan there are three others involved, Ortmann, van der Kolk and Batato (the Youtube posts give Dotcom’s full name but just the surname of his 3 co-appealers.

Numbers of viewers so far:

  • Day 3 morning – 20,531
  • Day 3 afternoon – 18,548
  • Day 4 – 12,172
  • Day 5 – 5,842
  • Day 6 – 5,768
  • Day 7 – 3,604
  • Day 8 – 6,125
  • Day 9 – 4,285

Did Nellie Promotions Inc have a day off on Tuesday?

I can’t find a story on the appeal at the herald this week, the last one I can find is Monday August 29 – Kim Dotcom extradition appeal: Lawyer argues for live-streaming

That lack of interest seems to be worldwide – perhaps the live streaming has backfired as a means of getting publicity.

A search in Google news for the last 24 hours for Kim Dotcom only gets these hits:

kimdotcomextraditionappeal

Nothing on the appeal. I find that amazing. Even going back a week and there is sparse coverage.