Shadbolt, Southland Times no guilty of defamation

Invercargill mayor says that a defamation case in which he was found not guilty the local government equivalent of the David Lange defamation case.

The case pitted a city councillor against her mayor (and the local newspaper).

RNZ – Defamation trial: Not guilty verdict good for councils – Shadbolt

A jury on Friday found Mr Shadbolt and the Southland Times newspaper not guilty of defaming Karen Arnold in a series of columns in 2014 and 2015.

Ms Arnold had argued she was portrayed by the mayor in the columns as unprofessional and a leaker of confidential documents.

Mr Shadbolt said the verdict was highly significant for freedom of speech.

“If we really want to criticise our mayors or if our mayors want to cristicise their councillors, it certainly gives a lot more room for them to do that and I think as a result it will lead to much healthier debate around the council table.”

Mr Shadbolt said his case was the local government equivalent of the David Lange defamation case 20 years ago.

Stuff (which includes the Southland Times): Defamation proceedings against Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Stuff fail

Invercargill City councillor Karen Arnold had sued Shadbolt and Stuff, formerly Fairfax Media, for defamation over comments made by Shadbolt in four columns published in The Southland Times in 2014 and 2015.

She claimed a number of defamatory meanings could be drawn from the columns, which discussed her position on council matters, including the council’s trading company Holdco and a proposed kākāpō display.

The meanings alleged by Arnold included that she was dishonest, had leaked confidential documents, had colluded with a defunct ratepayers group and had acted inappropriately by engaging in debate about the “kākāpōrium” after declaring a conflict of interest.

The jury found Arnold had proved some of the alleged meanings, but did not find any of these to be defamatory. However, after the verdict, the judge granted her lawyers’ request to make a court application to determine whether the verdicts for the first three columns were legally sound.

Arnold is considering whether to appeal.

Stuff editorial director Mark Stevens said he was pleased with the jury’s decision.

“We always felt that at the heart of this case was the very important editorial principle of freedom of expression and it’s great for the industry and the craft of journalism to have this outcome”.

Speaking outside the courthouse Shadbolt said he was “absolutely relieved” by the decision, which came three years after the statements in question.

During the trial his lawyer had warned a decision against his client could have a chilling effect on political speech, however Shadbolt said the jury had sided with “freedom of speech and freedom of expression”.

“It’s a landmark case and it’s also a defence not just of sincere conversation, but of satire, humour, being able to enjoy politics, which I’ve always tried to do.”

Shadbolt said the decision had confirmed those in local government could “express ourselves”, but rejected the working relationship between him and Arnold would be strained as a result: “I think both parties will be very keen to get back … to work”

That working relationship must have changed after this.

In his closing address, Stuff’s lawyer Robert Stewart asked the jury if the meanings alleged would be evident to a reasonable reader or to someone “who sees conspiracies that don’t exist”.

Arnold’s lawyer Peter McKnight said the meanings were clear. He told the court Shadbolt “loathed” his client, that there was no factual basis for his statements and he was simply “out to give Karen Arnold some decent swipes”.

The sentiment was denied by the Shadbolt camp. His lawyer Felix Geiringer said that while it was true the pair did not “get on”, he was within his rights to criticise her and otherwise he was giving his opinion on local political matters.

Some big name out of town lawyers there. It won’t have been a cheap trial for any of the parties.

Arnold alleged Stuff was irresponsible and reckless in the way it published the columns, in part because only one staff member – long-term Southland Times features editor Mike Fallow – checked them without referral to editor Natasha Holland or a lawyer.

This, in McKnight’s reckoning, was “totally irresponsible”. However, Stuff’s chief executive Sinead Boucher said she would have personally published the columns and the checking process they went through was appropriate for a modern news organisation.

Geiringer told the jury freedom of speech was particularly important in this case. He argued there would be a chilling effect on political speech and publishers’ willingness to provide a platform if the jury found against his client.

Their decision would have, he said, a “substantial impact on the society we live in”, whereas McKnight contended it was “very important that we as a society protect the reputations of politicians from unwarranted attack”.

There is a well known precedent that specifically applies to criticism of politicians.

The case provided a basis for the Lange defence – a legal precedent that allowed news organisations to report harsh criticism of politicians, provided they were not reckless or motivated by malice – to apply not just to parliamentarians, but local body politicians.

TEARA: David Lange, defamation and media freedom

In the October 1995 issue of North and South magazine, political scientist Joe Atkinson suggested that former Prime Minister David Lange had been too lazy to take on the difficult aspects of that job. The accompanying cartoon played with the article’s suggestion that Lange suffered from ‘false-memory syndrome’ in his portrayal of himself as prime minister – as well as his comments about hotel breakfasts in New Zealand.

David Lange, defamation and media freedom

Lange considered the article (and cartoon) to be defamatory and took Atkinson to court in 1996.

After the case went through a series of courts, the Court of Appeal eventually decided that journalists had a defence of ‘qualified privilege’ – meaning that they could criticise politicians on the basis of their ‘honest belief’. The findings in the case have given New Zealand media greater freedom to comment on the performance of politicians.

The Southland case is different in that it was a councillor versus the mayor.

 

Williams versus Craig: will there be an apology?

Jordan Williams has sort of won the latest round in the defamation proceedings he brought against Colin Craig, but it’s hard to are any either his or Craig’s reputation or bank balance coming out of this in the positive.

Williams was originally awarded about $1.2 million in ordinary and punitive damages by a jury, but the judge set that aside, saying it was an excessive award and it should go back to trial. Williams appealed that and won – it won’t go back to trial to determine defamation, that stands, but it will go back to trial or the judge to determine an appropriate award. Craig cross appealed and lost.

A key question in the original trial was whether Craig’s reaction to attacks and provocation from Williams was justified or over the top. The jury ruled it was excessive and that stands, but the Court of Appeal ruled they didn’t take the behaviour and reputation of Williams into account when awarding damages.

Judgment of the Court

A The appeal is allowed in part. The order made in the High Court for retrial of the appellant’s claims for liability and damages is set aside.

B Judgment is entered for the appellant in accordance with the jury’s verdict on liability. An order is made directing a retrial of the appellant’s claim for damages.

C In all other respects the appeal and cross appeal are dismissed.

D The respondent is ordered to pay the appellant 50 per cent of costs as calculated for a standard appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements. There is no order for costs on the cross-appeal. All costs issues arising in the High Court are to be determined in that Court in accordance with this judgment.

However they also ruled that it was appropriate to set a limit on the level of damages.

[58] Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of an unsustainable award. His claim was pitched at a plainly extravagant level. There was no request for a direction about the appropriate parameters of an award. In this case an appropriate direction would have been up to $250,000 for compensatory damages
including aggravation, and for punitive damages no more than $10,000.

[78] It will be for the retrial Judge to decide procedure for a damages claim.

(b) Mr Williams is entitled to a compensatory award, which should be anywhere up to a maximum of $250,000 for damage to his reputation, including aggravating factors…

(c) an award of punitive damages was also available but should not be more than $10,000.

So a maximum of $260,000 recommended, about a million dollars less than the original award.

A lack of an apology from Craig was a factor, and remains a factor.

[41] The circumstances of this case are much less serious than those of Siemer v Stiassny and Holloway. We acknowledge the jury’s finding that Mr Craig’s statements about Mr Williams were false and defamatory and would tend to lower his standing in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. Its verdicts must be respected. We acknowledge also the gravity of Mr Craig’s attack on Mr Williams’ reputation, the nationwide and repetitive circulation of Mr Craig’s defamatory comments, Mr Craig’s persistence with his defence of truth and attack on Mr Williams’ reputation, and Mr Craig’s refusal to apologise. However, some perspective is necessary. We refer to two particular contextual factors.

[42] First, Mr Williams cannot point to any special harm. He is not a public figure. He is the leader of a little-known political group. Nor was he defamed in performing his professional duties as a lawyer. He was defamed in response to his actions taken with the aim of removing Mr Craig from his office as leader of a small political party. Whether Mr Williams’ objective was purely personal or linked to his role as a lobbyist for fiscal conservatism is of no real moment. His tactics — such as private messaging and the use of a pseudonym — were covert so as to keep himself out of the public eye.

[43] The trial process revealed that Mr Williams had accused Mr Craig of sexual harassment against Ms MacGregor but himself harboured offensive attitudes towards women. Mr Williams’ Facebook exchanges with Mr Slater, on which he was recalled for cross-examination at trial, were sexually crude and disparaging of women, particularly those of a different political leaning. In a written apology, which he read aloud at trial, Mr Williams accepted that his messages portrayed him in a poor light. It may fairly be observed that the trial process exposed serious flaws in the characters of both protagonists.

[79] …The trial Judge will provide extracts from the evidential transcript. Mr Craig may also wish to mitigate damages by tendering an unequivocal apology to Mr Williams.

This suggests that if Craig tenders “an unequivocal apology” the damages will be mitigated – that must mean reduced.

I don’t know if Craig will be prepared to apologise, but if he does, properly, the award should shrink further.

This has been a very costly trial, both monetary and to both reputations.

Williams was awarded just 50% of the costs of his appeal, and none of the costs for the cross appeal.

On a retrial on damages he may also be awarded costs, but that may not be all of the costs there, and I don’t know how the costs of the original trial will be determined, if at all. It’s hard to see Williams being awarded all costs given the Court of Appeal stated “Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of an unsustainable award”.

In one respect Williams has won – the defamation decided by the jury stands. But he has not helped his own reputation with the trial, and he may not come out of this very well financially either. It could end up being a win-lose outcome for him.

It’s just a lose-lose situation for Craig. He was understandably at the attacks on him and the fairly clear attempts to destroy his political career and his Conservative party, but he over-reacted in response, using the power of his money excessively. That has cost him a lot. If he apologises it will cost him a little less perhaps.

Williams versus Craig – retrial of damages only

The Court of Appeal has ruled in the Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation, saying there should be no retrial of the defamation, but the costs should go before the Court again.

 

After noting Wiliams’ Facebook exchange with Whaleoil was “sexually crude and disparaging of women” the Court of Appeal said of the damages award: “The law must be concerned with the reputation he deserved and compensate accordingly.”

The Appeal Court on Colin Craig “We agree with Mr Mills QC that the size of the award suggests the jury’s particularly adverse judgment on Mr Craig’s character, credibility and conduct of his defence. Mr Mills pitched it at the level of the jury’s hatred for Mr Craig.”

But a different take from Stuff:  Taxpayers’ Union boss wins right to argue claim for $1.27m in damages

Taxpayers’ Union co-founder Jordan Williams may be able to claw back the $1.27 million in damages originally awarded to him in a defamation case.

The High Court judge presiding over the case later set aside the damages – the largest defamation award in New Zealand, and the maximum Williams had sought.

But on Monday, the Court of Appeal released a decision allowing part of Williams’ appeal, which would see a retrial of his claim for damages.

Other aspects of Williams’ appeal and Craig’s cross-appeal were dismissed. However, the retrial relating to the damages alone, would give Williams the chance to claw back at least some of the initial $1.27m he was initially promised.

That’s different to the headline and initial paragraph. Stuff has a copy of the decision.

[78] It will be for the retrial Judge to decide procedure for a damages claim.The process should be analogous to trial of a claim on admitted facts, or admitted pleadings, and be relatively straightforward. The Judge could properly direct the jury to this effect:

(a) Mr Craig defamed Mr Williams in two separate publications, the Remarks and the Leaflet, at least a week apart, by stating that Mr Williams had acted dishonestly, untruthfully and deceitfully for making the allegation that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, which was necessarily rejected by the first jury;

(b) Mr Williams is entitled to a compensatory award, which should be anywhere up to a maximum of $250,000 for damage to his reputation,including aggravating factors, taking into account that:

– any damage was caused primarily by the Remarks and compounded marginally by republication in the Leaflet;

– some of the allegations made by Mr Craig about Mr Williams’ conduct relating to the defamatory statements had elements of truth in that some aspects of his conduct had been dishonest, deceitful and untrustworthy, but not in making the allegation of sexual harassment;

– Mr Craig’s statements were made in a political context and in a counter-attack to criticisms made by a man whose own attitude to women was questionable;

– elements of Mr Craig’s  conduct of his defence may have compounded the original damage; and

(c)  an award of punitive damages was also available but should not be more than $10,000

That sets maximums at less than a quarter of the original award.

79]

The Judge’s approach will ultimately be influenced by the parties’ decisions.

[80]
There is of course a more pragmatic and sensible solution. The parties can simply agree that Katz J should determine damages.  The Judge alluded to this option in her retrial decision.  She invited counsel for the parties to submit memoranda.Both sides have since shadow boxed on this proposal, which remains in limbo. It isthe most obvious path to resolution if the parties are genuinely seeking finality. Katz J is fully familiar with all the evidence and would only require focused submissions from counsel to complete the exercise.

Can they be pragmatic?

[118]  The appeal is allowed in part. The order made in the High Court for a retrial of the appellant’s claim for liability and damages is set aside.

[119]  Judgment is entered for the appellant in accordance with the jury’s verdict onliability. An order is made directing a retrial of the appellant’s  claim for damages.

[120]  In all other respects the appeal and cross-appeal are dismissed.

[121]  The respondent is ordered to pay the appellant 50 per cent of costs as calculatedfor a standard appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements. This reductionreflects the fact that the appeal was only partially successful. There is no order for costs on the cross-appeal. All costs issues arising in the High Court are to be determined in that Court in accordance with this judgment.

The decision online: http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/williams-v-craig-1/@@images/fileDecision?r=514.731640769

Statement from Jordan Williams re Court of Appeal decision

Naturally, I am delighted with the success of my appeal at the Court of Appeal overturning Justice Katz’s earlier decision to set aside the jury verdict in my defamation claim against Colin Craig. Justice Katz had ordered a full re-trial on the basis that the $1.27 million damages award was so high.

I am very relieved that there will not be a full re-trial, and that the issue is now simply damages. It means Mr Craig has failed in his efforts to re-litigate, yet again, this whole matter.

The judgment is totally clear that I was defamed by Mr Craig, and that the jury’s findings, now confirmed, have vindicated me.

No one can take away from the fact the jury were unanimous in my favour. The jury believed me, believed Rachel MacGregor, and not Mr Craig. Today’s decision has confirmed all of that.

As I said immediately after the jury verdict, I never entered into these proceedings for the money, nor did I want these proceedings at all. It was only Mr Craig’s own threats of legal action against me which saw us in Court. I sought to prove that Mr Craig’s allegations were wrong and to put a stop to Mr Craig’s egregious assault on my reputation.

But overplaying his hand on money has resulted in this legal mess.

[58] Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of anunsustainable award. His claim was pitched at a plainly extravagant level. There was no request for a direction about the appropriate parameters of an award. In this case an appropriate direction would have been up to $250,000 for compensatory damages including aggravation, and for punitive damages no more than $10,000.

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.

Anti-free speech litigation versus anti-free speech petition

Last week Bob Jones included some inflammatory comments in an NBR article. As a result of reaction NBR pulled the column and said they would no longer publish columns from Jones.

In reaction Renae Maihi started a petition asking that the Prime Minister strip Jones of his knighthood, calling the column ‘a vile racist rant’.

Stuff: Tens of thousands sign petition to strip Sir Bob Jones of his knighthood

Acclaimed film-maker Renae Maihi started the change.org petition on Thursday morning. “There is public support for this, somebody can’t get away with hate speech like that and not be held to account,” she said.

Maihi is upset by what Jones wrote in his regular National Business Review column last week, under the title ‘Time for a Troll’. He said a new public holiday should be introduced called Māori Gratitude Day instead of Waitangi Day.

“I have in mind a public holiday where Maoris bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash & polish our cars & so on, out of gratitude for existing.” Jones also commented on children, blood quantum and suicide.

“I think he went beyond trolling, it’s hate speech,” Maihi said.

Maihi admits it’s unlikely Jones will lose his knighthood but will continue to collect signatures and approach the Prime Minister formally at a later date.

“He’s been honoured amongst a group of people that are meant to inspire and I just don’t think he’s very inspirational at all with those extreme racist comments. I just don’t think he deserves to be called a Sir anymore.”

Obviously Maihi had a right to criticise Jones, but I criticised her attempt to punish Jones for exercising his right to free speech. See Anti-Jones petition worse than inflammatory column.

Now Jones is threatening to punish Maihi for what she said about him through the courts.

Newshub: Sir Bob Jones threatens legal action against anti-racist petition

Sir Bob Jones has threatened legal action against filmmaker Renae Maihi, after she started a petition to have him stripped of his knighthood.

Sir Bob told RadioLIVE’s Ryan Bridge that his column was clearly satirical and he would sue Ms Maihi for defamation.

“For God’s sake, if anyone can take that literally, they’ve got serious problems,” he said. “It’s basically a mickey-take on issues of the day.

“I will be issuing proceedings against this woman for defamation, because I take particular exception when she uses the word ‘hate’. I don’t hate anyone.”

That seems like a heavy handed anti-free speech act that only someone with a lot of money could afford to do.

An over the top reaction to an over the top petition in reaction to over the top comments in a column.

Maihi remains staunch – for now: Film-maker stands her ground over petition against Sir Bob Jones

The woman behind a petition to strip Sir Bob Jones of his knighthood is standing her ground, despite the threat of being sued by the property magnate.

In a statement, Maihi told Fairfax she would not be taking down the petition, which had received more than 49,700 signatures by 5.40pm today.

“People like Bob Jones need to understand that the privilege they have in society also comes with a responsibility, and at a bare minimum that includes not writing flagrant hate speech in the media,” the statement reads.

Just yesterday she wrote on her Facebook page that she welcomed further support.

“Support welcome, I’ll need it – clearly he’s one of the wealthiest men in this country and I am not,” the post reads.

“I will always stand up for the mana of our children.”

A later update on the Facebook page showed she had been offered assistance from lawyers.

Sir Bob told One News earlier this week that the column was a “p*sstake” and that he took exception to it being called hate speech.

“I won’t sue her for a lot because that would seem like I’m bullying her,” he said.

Both he and Maihi are taking excessive action in response to the speech of others.

Perhaps Jones’ threat is just another piss-take.

Williams v Craig appeal – reserved decision

Not surprisingly the Court of Appeal has reserved it’s decision after a two day appeal hearing in the defamation case between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig.

Stuff:  Jordan Williams might be victim of his own success in defamation case

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on his attempt to recapture the $1.27 million award for defamation the jury made against Conservative Party founder and former leader Colin Craig.

It was such a big win  – the largest defamation award in New Zealand, and the maximum Williams had sought – that a High Court judge set it aside, and the Court of Appeal looks unlikely to reinstate it.

After the jury’s award was set aside and a new trial ordered, Williams appealed to have the jury’s verdicts upheld.

The Court of Appeal indicated that the damages probably could not stand.

If damages alone had to be assessed again, it was a question of whether the original trial judge could fix them; whether a jury might do so, based on a more limited body of evidence; or whether the whole case had to be run again.

Williams’ other lawyer, Peter McKnight, said Williams would agree to having the original trial judge fix damages, even though she appeared to have an adverse view about Williams in some respects.

That sounds like an acceptance that a lower award is inevitable, at best, and Williams obviously wants to retain the verdict.

Craig’s lawyer Stephen Mills, QC, said the Court of Appeal had to be satisfied the jury had not reached its decisions through “gross prejudice”.

Craig wants a new trial to have another chance at defending himself.

The original judgment took a long time. The judgment in Slater v Craig is taking a long time – the case was hear in May.

It seems unlikely a decision will be made here before the end of the year.

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.

Labour MP files defamation papers

Another political defamation  case, this time Labour MP Raymond Huo , who has filed papers against People’s Party president Steven Ching and his wife Ailian Su.

NZH:  Raymond Huo says he was falsely accused of corruption & criminal record

Labour MP Raymond Huo claims he was the target of a nasty campaign leading up to the election that falsely accused him of having a criminal record and then asking police to wipe it.

Huo’s lawyer Kalev Crossland filed defamation documents in the Auckland High Court last week against People’s Party president Steven Ching and his wife Ailian Su, who he says spread false material damaging to Huo.

Crossland, who said the papers would be served this week, claimed that Ching and Su republished material in the lead-up to the election on popular Chinese social media app WeChat – a popular platform with broad reach in the Auckland Chinese community.

The court file says that the materials falsely accused Huo of dishonesty, corruption, having a criminal record, and that he was behind media stories questioning the Chinese military background of National MP Dr Jian Yang.

It further states that Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, when he was Labour Party leader, went with Huo to a police station and asked “Police Officer S” to delete Huo’s criminal record.

Goff told the Herald there was no truth to the story.

Huo is seeking a declaration of defamation and legal costs. He questioned who authored the material, suggesting it was designed to boost the popularity of Ching as well as divert attention away from the media spotlight on Dr Yang’s background.

Crossland said he asked Ching and Su to provide evidence of the claims, “which they didn’t and they couldn’t because none of it was true”.

“This was done very strategically in the lead-up to the election. If you’ve got a question mark over you, even if it’s not true, it might tip them away from voting for Raymond. It was a really nasty thing to have done.

“Many clients would seek aggravated damages, but Raymond just wants his name cleared.”

Court documents say: “The plaintiff’s reputation has been seriously damaged, and the plaintiff and his family has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment and, due to the permanent nature of online publication, will continue to have his reputation damaged.”

Attempts were made to ‘cease and desist’ but presumably were not successful/

Huo sent cease-and-desist letters to Ching and Su after the material surfaced. Ching and Su subsequently issued a press release saying they did not write the material, though they found the contents interesting and they had shared it among friends.

Ching told the Herald he did not write the material, nor did he know who had written it, and legal action against him and his wife was “not fair”.

It’s sad to see politics played out in the courts.

Craig v Stringer defamation

Details of one of the defamation cases related to the Colin Craig fall from grace in the Conservative Party were revealed in court in Christchurch today.

Stuff: Details emerge of defamation case settlement between former Conservative Party members

Details of a confidential defamation settlement between former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and former board member John Stringer have emerged from a High Court hearing in Christchurch.

The hearing heard that as a part of the settlement in January, Stringer was to pay $100,000 to Craig.

The payment was subject to a “means verification process”, which examined his ability to pay and after that process he was not required to pay anything.

The day-long legal argument was held in Christchurch on Monday after Stringer filed an application to have Associate Judge Rob Osborne recall his judgment, set it aside, and strike out the proceedings.

Alternatively, Stringer sought to have the judgment recalled and reworded to reflect the actual financial payment, without having it struck out.

At the settlement conference in late January, the parties agreed Stringer would apologise, retract his statement, and pay an undisclosed sum.

Stringer told the hearing the amount agreed on was $100,000.

Stringer argued on Monday that all the “financial matters” could not be discussed but in the days after the deal, Craig was reported in the media as saying Stringer would pay Craig an undisclosed sum.

After the means verification hearing, which decided nothing should be paid, Craig said Stringer had published on his Facebook page that the case had been “settled for zero”. A print-out of the Facebook entry was produced to the court.

Associate Judge Osborne said: “Publication of the zero settlement was clearly misleading.”

Craig told the hearing: “Disclosure of the zero payment has devalued the settlement to me.”

Stringer said Craig had disclosed part of the text of the letter from him to McGregor, but the full 12-page text only reached him after the settlement conference. It caused the settlement conference to be unacceptable to him.

Craig said he disclosed the part of the letter that he had kept on McGregor’s employment file at the party office, but he did not have the full letter himself. He had sought it from McGregor through a non-party disclosure application, and she eventually provided it.

The judge reserved his decision and said it would take 5-6 weeks for him to issue it.

This is one of a number of defamation cases related to revelations emerging from the Conservative Party. whose secretary resigned two days before the 2014 election.

Jordan Williams won a record award from a jury last year but that was subsequently set aside by the judge.

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 retrial on the first available date that is convenient to senior counsel.

I don’t know what has happened in the proceeding since then.

 

Craig attempted a defamation claim against ex Conservative staff member J Stiekma.

[36] The entire claim is therefore struck out pursuant to District Court Rule 15.1
pursuant to the Jam eel principle, and particularly because of the extremely limited
dissemination of the admitted statements and the unlikelihood that they would have
any effect whatsoever on Mr Craig’s reputation.

Craig v Slater tit for tat defamation went to trial in May, with the judge reserving his decision on June 1. There is no judgment on that yet.

Source: http://www.defamationupdate.co.nz/2017

Craig ordered to pay costs

Colin Craig has been ordered to pay costs after an attempt by him to sue an ex-employee for defamation was  rejected by the Court.

Stuff on 31 July: Judge throws out Colin Craig’s bid to sue former employee for defamation

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been dealt another blow at court, with a judge throwing out his attempt to sue a former employee for defamation.

Judge Gary Harrison said at the Auckland District Court it would be a waste of time to let the embattled businessman proceed with his attempted legal action.

“I have serious misgivings that it would be appropriate to keep these proceedings alive,” Harrison wrote, in a decision released on Monday.

Craig claimed he had been defamed by Jacky Stiekema, who previously worked as a trust accounts manager for his company Centurion Management Ltd, and he sought $240,000 in damages.

Judge Harrison concluded it was highly unlikely court proceedings would prove Stiekema wrong in her denials, and said the Facebook comments in themselves did not warrant defamation proceedings.

He wrote that only one other of Stringer’s 200 friends responded to the message thread, and Stiekema’s remarks would have had little impact.

“I regard the effect they would have on Mr Craig’s reputation as minimal,” he said.

“The costs associated with a trial that would occupy the order of five days, perhaps more, are simply not justified.”

RNZ yesterday: Colin Craig ordered to pay $17k in costs to woman he tried to sue

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been ordered to pay more than $17,000 in costs to a woman he tried to sue for defamation.

In a decision released today, Judge Harrison awarded Ms Stiekema $17,600 in costs.

Whale Oil has posted Colin Craig smacked with costs, used law suit for “ulterior motive”

What Colin Craig did to Mrs. Stiekema is awful. He is out for vengeance and flailing away at anyone who dares speak the truth about him.

I agree that what Craig tried to do here was awful.

I also think this is awfully hypocritical of Cameron Slater, given how much vengeful flailing he has been associated with in the courts, as unsuccessfully as Craig was here.

This unsuccessful flailing by Craig should serve as a deterrence to anyone trying to use the courts to shut truth telling up.

The courts are starting to wise up to his multiple law suits and to why he is doing it.

That reminds me of someone else.