Peter Ellis appeal to be heard by Supreme Court

Peter Ellis was found guilty on 13 charges of abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Creche in 1993. He served seven years of a 10-year prison term, being released in 2000.

There were a number of controversial aspects of the investigation and trial of Ellis, including a range of bizarre allegations, and I think the case is deserving of being re-examined.

In 2015 Justice Minister Amy Adams declined a request from supporters for a commission of inquiry, saying it did not contain new evidence and would not determine guilt – see Peter Ellis considers Privy Council bid

The Supreme Court has now accepted an appeal from Ellis.

Case Name Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis v The Queen
Summary Criminal Appeal – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from risks of contamination of or improperly obtained complainant evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from lack of expert evidence on the reliability of children complainants’ evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice due to unreliable expert evidence being led at trial.
Judgment appealed from – Court of Appeal CA 120/98 14 October 1999

Court of Appeal decision: The Queen v Ellis [1999] NZCA 226; [2000] 1 NZLR 513; (2000) 17 CRNZ 411 (14 October 1999)

Introduction

[1] Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis faced trial in the Christchurch High Court on 28 counts alleging sexual offences against a number of young children attending the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre. The trial commenced on 26 April 1993 and at its conclusion some six weeks later he was convicted on 16 counts. Three were the subject of a discharge by the Judge during trial, and 9 verdicts of acquittal were entered. On 22 September he was sentenced to an effective term of 10 years imprisonment. On appeal to this Court, in a judgment delivered on 8 September 1994 now reported as R v Ellis (1994) 12 CRNZ 172, three of the counts against one complainant were because of her retraction quashed and verdicts of acquittal directed, but the appeal was otherwise dismissed. Following two applications made to the Governor-General, acting pursuant to s406(a) of the Crimes Act 1961 His Excellency referred the question of the 13 convictions to this Court for hearing and determination. The Order in Council is dated 12 May 1999, identifies five broad grounds contained in the applications, and records these as forming the reasons for the reference.

Result

[95] For the reasons stated, we are not persuaded that any individual ground of appeal has been made out. Neither are we persuaded that their cumulative effect constitutes a miscarriage of justice. The appeal is therefore dismissed.

Now from Stuff:  Peter Ellis asks Supreme Court to hear his appeal over Civic Creche convictions

Ellis, now 61, served seven years of a 10-year jail sentence, before being released in February 2000.

The lawyer who represented him at his trial in 1993, Rob Harrison, is once again on the case and says thousands of hours of work had been done looking at the field of child psychology and what impacts on young interview subjects.

“It deserves to be aired and looked at again,” Harrison said.

Developments in research undertaken over the past 25 years gave better information about how children respond and how to get information from them.

“I would have often thought about the case and it’s one of those cases that is always there.

“It needs to be resolved and it’s a shame it has taken us this long.”

Ellis stood trial at the High Court in Christchurch in 1993, and was convicted of 16 charges after a six-week trial. He had been discharged on some charges and acquitted on others.

Three of the convictions were overturned on appeal in 1994 when one of the complainants retracted her allegations.

Following applications to the governor-general to exercise the prerogative of mercy, the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in 1999, but the remaining 13 convictions stood.

Throughout, the case called into question the techniques used to interview child complainants and the risk that their evidence might have been contaminated.

It was suggested parents and professional interviewers had asked direct and suggestive questions of children, and that the children were spoken to repeatedly about the allegations.

The Supreme Court has a two-step appeal process.

The court first decides if it will hear the appeal, based on whether it is in the interests of justice. The judges consider whether it is a matter of general public importance, and whether a substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred or will occur if the appeal is not heard.

It is only if the court gives permission that an appeal can be heard.

Since Ellis was first convicted the Supreme Court has taken over from the Privy Council in London as New Zealand’s highest court. The Crown had agreed to Ellis taking his case to the Supreme Court rather than seeking a Privy Council appeal.

The Ellis case has prompted more scrutiny than almost any other in New Zealand’s legal history, involving three court hearings, four petitions seeking his pardon, and numerous other campaigns.

A senior Christchurch lawyer who had previously represented Ellis, Nigel Hampton, QC, has continued to take an interest.

“I think it is a festering sore,” he said recently.

Hampton said then he would not want judges appointed to a commission, and favoured allowing reviews to continue even after the subject of them had died.

“Peter Ellis comes to mind. If he were to die. I think [that] is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.”

“In contrast to most miscarriage cases, where the wrong person is convicted of something, Ellis has been convicted of crimes that never existed. If he were to die, he would still die a convicted man.”

Obviously this is an important case for Ellis, and a test of the way in which child abuse cases are investigated, but it is also a very important test of the New Zealand judicial system, which seems averse to challenging questionable verdicts.

 

 

Williams v Craig defamation retrial ordered

The legal war of attrition looks set to continue in the defamation  battle between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig.

Stuff:  Colin Craig wins latest defamation duel with Jordan Williams, retrial ordered

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has won a retrial of the case in which he was accused of defaming Jordan Williams.

The bitter and hard-fought case between Craig and Williams, the executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which on Thursday found the High Court jury had been materially misdirected and the case should be run again.

In the first High Court case a jury had found overwhelmingly for Williams and awarded him $1.27 million in damages.

The damages sum was all that Williams had claimed and set a record for defamation awards in New Zealand.

But the High Court judge said it was excessive, set it aside, and ordered a retrial of both the size of the award and whether Williams had been defamed at all.

The Court of Appeal refused to reinstate the damages but said only the part of the case that dealt with damages should be reheard.

Williams was at the Supreme Court in Wellington to hear its 3-2 majority decision delivered. Later he said he would not comment on the decision. Craig could not be contacted.

Neither Williams nor Craig have come out of the initial attacks by Williams via Whale Oil and counter attack via media and mass mail out by Craig, or the 4 week defamation trial, or the subsequent court actions with their reputations enhanced – to the contrary.

And they have added substantially too their loss of reputation by huge and mounting costs.

Decision: https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/craig-v-williams/@@images/fileDecision?r=564.327631828

Trump keeps attacking US Supreme Court

Donald Trump is having another spat, this time with the US Supreme Court. Presidents are supposed to keep a distance from Justice branch and not interfere, but Trump continues to do as he pleases.

NY Times:  Trump Takes Aim at Appeals Court, Calling It a ‘Disgrace’

President Trump lashed out on Tuesday against the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, calling it a lawless disgrace and threatening unspecified retaliation.

“That’s not law,” he said of the court’s rulings. “Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten.”

“It’s a disgrace,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came after a federal trial judge ordered the administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States.

NY Times: Chief Justice Defends Judicial Independence After Trump Attacks ‘Obama Judge’

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defended the independence and integrity of the federal judiciary on Wednesday, rebuking President Trump for calling a judge who had ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge.”

The chief justice said that was a profound misunderstanding of the judicial role.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” he said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

That blunt statement may represent a turning point in the relationship between the heads of two branches of the federal government, which until Wednesday had been characterized by slashing attacks from the president and studied restraint from the chief justice.

Chief Justice Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, made his statement as he is adjusting to a new dynamic on the Supreme Court. The arrival last month of Mr. Trump’s second appointee, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, thrust the chief justice into the court’s ideological center, a spot that had long belonged to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in July.

Trump bit back.

Fox news: Trump continues war of words with Chief Justice Roberts; calls 9th Circuit Court a ‘total disaster’

President Trump on Thursday continued his attack on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, calling the court in California a “total disaster” with a “horrible reputation.”

While Trump was correct that 79 percent of the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling that the Supreme Court heard were overturned – at least between 2010 and 2015 – its reversal rate is not the absolute highest in the country. That title would go to Sixth Circuit, which serves Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, with an 87 percent average between 2010 and 2015.

The president’s tweet on Thanksgiving morning is just the latest in a series of social media postings slamming the Ninth Circuit Court after U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar issued a temporary restraining order late Monday against Trump’s plan to refuse asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally if they do not arrive at a port of entry.

At a press conference Trump talked about the 9th Circuit, saying “everybody knows it is out of control”.

It will raise a few judicial eyebrows if trump keeps attacking judges who deliver judgments that he doesn’t like. It should also raise political eyebrows, but Trump is likely to be given a pass again by GOP politicians.

Presidents have a lot of power. Some want to exercise more power than they are able to. The judiciary is an important check on authoritarian power.

Another Nottingham court failure highlights failures of courts

Dermot Nottingham keeps clocking up failures in courts. The latest is in the Supreme Court, which dismissed an extension of time to appeal a prior appeal.

There is some history going back over four years (with related proceedings that go back to events in 2009). The judgment being appealed: NOTTINGHAM v DISTRICT COURT AT AUCKLAND [2018] NZCA 75 [28 March 2018]:

[1] On 27 April 2017 Gilbert J granted the second respondents’ application to strike out Mr Nottingham’s statement of claim in a judicial review of the District Court at Auckland alleging a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Judge ruled that the claim was replete with scandalous and outrageous allegations without any attempt having been made to provide supporting factual particulars, almost all of the relief sought could not be granted in the context of an application for judicial review and that the flaws in the claim were of such a fundamental character that they could not be saved by amendment.

[2] Mr Nottingham did not file a notice of appeal of that judgment within the required time…

Background

[3] In March 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution in the Auckland District Court against the second respondents. Following a Judge alone trial extending over 17 sitting days, on 20 June 2016 Judge Paul dismissed all charges, acquitted the second respondents and made an order that the appellant pay costs totalling $117,000. Mr Nottingham’s application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 296 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 was declined by Davison J.

[4] The prequel to the criminal proceedings were complaints by both Mr Nottingham and Mr Honey to the Real Estate Agents Authority which culminated in a decision of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal,
an appeal to the High Court and a further appeal to this Court.

The prequel goes back a long time – to 2009.

[5] On 12 September 2016 Mr Nottingham commenced this judicial review proceeding alleging that Judge Paul had conspired with court staff and with the second respondents to defeat the course of justice in order to wrongfully acquit the second respondents of the criminal charges Mr Nottingham had brought against them in the private prosecution.

[8] In the present case the delay of six months is substantial. While the notice of application states there are reasonable grounds including medical reasons for the delay, there is nothing in the extensive materials filed in support of the application that provides any detail of such a reason.

[9] Indeed it is difficult to understand how it could credibly be said that Mr Nottingham was precluded on medical grounds from lodging a simple notice of appeal within the 20 working day period provided in the Court of Appeal (Civil) Rules when he was actively involved in other litigation. On 15, 22 and 23 May 2017 he appeared in the High Court at Auckland in support of the application for leave to appeal heard by Davison J. He also appeared in the High Court on 12 June 2017 in support of an appeal from the District Court at Auckland finding him in contempt of Court for wilfully insulting a judicial officer.

[10] In Almond v Read the Supreme Court stated that a decision to refuse an extension of time based substantially on the lack of merit of a proposed appeal should be made only where the appeal is clearly hopeless. One of the examples given of a hopeless appeal was where there was an abuse of process such as a collateral attack on issues finally determined in other proceedings. We consider that Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding is an example of such a collateral attack.

[11] Mr Nottingham’s private prosecution was dismissed. An application for leave to appeal was declined. An application under s 303 to this Court is still extant. In those circumstances we consider the nature of Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding offends the general rule of public policy explained in Hunter.

[12] The implications of this collateral attack by a still further litigation process has obvious relevance to the third and fourth of the Almond v Read considerations.

[13] Having regard to all of these factors we conclude that the interests of justice plainly require that we should decline to exercise the discretion to extend time under r 29A for the filing of an appeal against the judgment of Gilbert J.

Result

[14] The application for an extension of time to appeal is declined. The appellant must pay the second respondents costs for a standard application on a band A basis with usual disbursements.

The latest judgment from the Supreme Court dated 20 November 2018 – Nottingham v Auckland District Court and Honey, Honey and Taka.

[1] Mr Nottingham wanted to appeal to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the High Court. He did not file his notice of appeal within time so applied for an extension of time. The Court of Appeal declined to grant an extension of time. Mr Nottingham seeks leave to appeal out of time to this Court against that decision.

[4] The principles applicable to the Court of Appeal’s decision whether or not to grant an extension of time were set out recently by the Court in Almond v Read. Mr Nottingham does not challenge those principles; rather, he seeks to challenge their application by the Court of Appeal to the particular facts of this case. No point of general or public importance accordingly arises. Nor does anything raised by Mr Nottingham give rise to the appearance of a miscarriage of justice. We add that his delay in filing in this Court is unexplained.

[5] For these reasons the application for an extension of time to appeal is dismissed. The applicant is to pay costs of $2,500 to the second respondents.

So a simple judgment, but again using court time and imposing further time and costs on the respondents after an extensive amount of litigation over nearly a decade.

In 2015 Nottingham told me that if ongoing litigation took him ten years he was up for it.

This judgment follows a similar judgment and a similar award of costs earlier this month: DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v HEMI TAKA, MARTIN RUSSELL HONEY AND STEPHANIE FRANCIS HONEY [2018] NZSC 102 [5 November 2018]

Costs are supposed to be a deterrent to frivolous, vexatious and hopeless litigation, but they don’t deter Nottingham, who has clocked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs awarded against him which led to him being adjudicated bankrupt in September – see HONEY v NOTTINGHAM [2018] NZHC 2382 [11 September 2018].  I was involved in that proceeding and am owed court awarded costs by Nottingham for another failed private prosecution.

I met with the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group on Monday to have my say, making suggestions on what I want from the criminal justice system and and how we might make it better. This focused on much of what is again highlighted in this judgment – successive courts have allowed Nottingham to proceed through multiple stages of litigation, incessantly  breaching laws, court rules and timetables, and not paying costs that are supposed to deter these sorts of abuse of the judicial system.

The Advisory group will make recommendations to the Minister of Justice next year, and then it is over to the Minister, Cabinet and Parliament as to what they change.

As per what is highlighted above, requiring judges to enforce procedural legislation and timetables could make a significant difference in limiting vexatious and hopeless litigation.

 

 

 

Nottingham fails in Supreme Court appeal

Another fail for Dermot Nottingham, this time the Supreme Court declining leave to appeal. This is entirely predictable, as he was seeking leave to appeal a Court of Appeal decision that said they had no jurisdiction to overturn the High Court declining leave to appeal. More wasting of court time.

Costs of $2500 were awarded against Nottingham, but as he has been insolvent for some time (probably years) and was adjudicated bankrupt in September he is unlikely to be able to pay these, on top of the quarter of a million dollars in various court costs he already owes.

Costs are supposed to be a deterrent to vexatious and hopeless litigation but Nottingham continues to file proceedings regardless. I don’t know if he is ignorant of the judicial processes (he shouldn’t be, he has extensive experience with it) or if it is deliberate abuses of processes as part of campaigns of harassment against various people.

From the Supreme Court judgment DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v HEMI TAKA, MARTIN RUSSELL HONEY AND STEPHANIE FRANCIS HONEY [2018] NZSC 102 [5 November 2018]

[1] The applicant seeks leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal in which he was refused leave to appeal against two High Court decisions. Both had their origins in a private prosecution brought by the applicant against the three respondents in the District Court. All charges were dismissed by Judge Paul and he ordered the applicant to pay costs totalling $117,000 under the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967.

[2] The applicant sought leave to appeal against Judge Paul’s decision dismissing the charges and the award of costs.

[3] In the first of the High Court decisions, Paul Davison J refused leave to appeal and, in doing so, he addressed directly the costs argument.

[6] In dealing with the challenge to the judgment of Downs J, the Court concluded that there is no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal from such a decision, citing a number of cases decided under similar provisions of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957. In absence of a right of appeal, the Court found it had no jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the judgment of Downs J.

So the court (Court of Appeal) has no jurisdiction to overturn a lower a court (High Court) decision declining leave to appeal a lower court (District Court).

[7] In support of his application for leave to appeal to this Court, in respect of the judgment of Paul Davison J, the applicant repeats the submissions advanced to and rejected by the Court of Appeal.

[8] Although the judgment of Paul Davison J is lengthy, it is perfectly clear that he dealt with the case as an application for leave to appeal under s 296 and not as a substantive appeal. The order he made was to dismiss the application for leave to appeal. For the reasons given by the Court of Appeal, that decision was final. It was not susceptible to challenge in the Court of Appeal.

[9] We are likewise of the view that there was no jurisdiction to challenge in the Court of Appeal the decision by Downs J to refuse an extension of time.

[10] This Court relevantly has jurisdiction to deal only with appeals authorised by Part 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The proposed appeal is not within any head of jurisdiction provided under that Act. As to this, we note that s 213 to which we have already referred provides that an appeal court’s decision to give or refuse leave is final unless otherwise expressly provided for. This provision is as applicable to the Supreme Court as it is to the Court of Appeal and makes it clear that we do not have jurisdiction to entertain appeals against decisions of the Court of Appeal to refuse leave.

[11] The application for leave to appeal is dismissed. The applicant is to pay the respondents costs of $2,500.

So that should be the end of the legal line for Nottingham in this lengthy litigation.

Here is the Court of Appeal decision: NOTTINGHAM v DISTRICT COURT AT AUCKLAND [2018] NZCA 75 [28 March 2018]

[3] In March 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution in the Auckland District Court against the second respondents. Following a Judge alone trial extending over 17 sitting days, on 20 June 2016 Judge Paul dismissed all charges, acquitted the second respondents and made an order that the appellant pay costs totalling $117,000. Mr Nottingham’s application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 296 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 was declined by Davison J.

[4] The prequel to the criminal proceedings were complaints by both Mr Nottingham and Mr Honey to the Real Estate Agents Authority which culminated in a decision of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal, an appeal to the High Court and a further appeal to this Court.

So this relates to a failed prosecution that began over four and a half years ago.

And that relates to even longer running litigation – it started with a business deal in 2009 that led to:

[4] In early 2011, Mr Dermot Nottingham lodged a complaint on behalf of PBRL with the Real Estate Agents Authority (the REAA) alleging misconduct by Mr Honey…

This is just one of a number of lengthy proceedings Nottingham has been involved in, including other failed private prosecutions, against myself and three others. My case has ‘only’ been going for three and a half years, with leave to appeal costs being declined Nottingham by the Court of Appeal last week – see Nottingham fails again in Court of Appeal, judicial system faltering. The week before: Nottingham fails another attempted appeal.

In July Nottingham was sentenced after being convicted on two breaches of non-publication orders and five charges of criminal harassment. From the sentencing notes:

[16] Variously, the conduct alleged in respect of the five complainants, and differently as between those five complainants, can be characterised as a combination of some or all of the following:

(g) Engaging in or threatening to engage in vexatious litigation.

[24] It was plain to me from the evidence that a number of these courses of conduct started with Mr Nottingham crossing the path of the individual complainant, either in his own capacity or on behalf of another individual, acting as their advocate.

[53] In his written submissions, Mr Nottingham makes it plain that he disagrees with the findings of the jury and challenges many of the rulings of the Court. As is characteristic of his approach to legal proceedings, I anticipate that Mr Nottingham will pursue all avenues of review and appeal and is unlikely ever to accept that what he did was not only unlawful, but reprehensible.

Nottingham has more proceedings pending in the courts.

Senate vote 50-48 for Kavanaugh

The US Senate is due to vote on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court this morning NZ time.

It looks like being a done deal for Kavanaugh, but that may not be the end of the controversy.

New Zealand has a cl;ear separation between the appointment of judges and politicians, as it should be, so it is strange and alarming to see how political important appointments to the highest judicial position are.

The vote was 51-49

Kavanaugh unsuited for Supreme Court

While there is a concerted campaign by Brett Kavanaugh supporters to play down accusations and to discredit accusers, his suitability for the Supreme Court looks increasingly untenable.

There are valid points about ‘innocent unless proven guilty’ to some degree, but a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States must meet higher standards. Kavanaugh’s manner at the Senate hearing last week alone raised questions about his demeanour and his political bias. And claims of drunken behaviour and belligerence keep emerging.

Ana Navarro (CNN): For the good of us all, Brett Kavanaugh should step aside

The ideology of a nominee, and factors like race, gender, ethnicity and creed, are all solely the President’s choice. But there are other requirements for a Supreme Court appointment that should not be optional. A Supreme Court Justice should have intellectual heft, judicial temperament and lifelong fitness of character.

There is no doubt Kavanaugh meets the intellect requirement.

In his first hearings, he came across as calm and deliberative — a cross between a Boy Scout and an altar boy.

That all changed once Professor Ford’s allegations emerged.

Let me say clearly and unequivocally, I believe Christine Blasey Ford.

I believe her because she is not a partisan activist. I believe her because during his hearing, Kavanaugh lied about little things he didn’t need to. I believe her because his good friend, Mark Judge, wrote a book called, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” which mentions a character named “O’Kavanaugh” he frequently got wasted with.

(See FBI interviews Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge)

A lot of people think we should not define a person’s entire life because of grave mistakes made as a teenager. I tend to agree with that. Kavanaugh is certainly not alone in doing things as a teenager that most of us as adults would rather forget.

But his nomination is for the Supreme Court. It is different than any other position in government. Once named, you can’t be fired. You are not accountable to voters or even a President. It is a lifetime appointment. And unlike appointments to lower courts, there is no retirement age and impeachment is almost unheard of. All of this makes the standard for confirmation higher.

I now believe Kavanaugh lacks the judicial temperament and character to serve on the Supreme Court. In the last hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was screaming, crying, disrespectful and partisan.

In his testimony in front of the committee, Kavanaugh was a partisan attack dog. He showed resentment and disdain for Democrats. He questioned Senator Klobuchar about her drinking habits. He brought Trump’s election into it. He blamed Professor Ford’s allegations on Clinton allies seeking revenge for his role in the Starr investigation.

But again, this is for the Supreme Court. Justices are supposed to be free from external political pressures. Given what we heard from Kavanaugh and the emotional scars this process will leave him with, given his animosity for Democrats and his indebtedness to Republicans, would he ever be capable of judicial independence? Every Senator, regardless of party, should ask themselves that question.

If Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court there will always be questions about his character and his political bias.

Mike Godwin is an attorney, author, and creator of Godwin’s Law.

And more and more facts against Kavanaugh are emerging.

NZH: Brett Kavanaugh and his staff reportedly sent text messages to cover up indecent exposure allegations

Last week, a separate report claimed he exposed himself during a drunken dormitory party in the same period, with various former classmates now publicly weighing in on his alleged out-of-control drinking habits in detail.

And now it has emerged that Kavanaugh and his staff were allegedly sending text messages to silence reports of indecent exposure — before the story had even broken.

Late last month, The New Yorker published a story in which Kavanaugh’s former classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed he exposed himself to others at a party in the early 1980s.

In the report, Ramirez, 53, claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself “at a drunken dormitory party” where she alleged he “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away”.

The story noted she had “gaps” in her memory from drinking, and that she couldn’t clarify his role “with certainty” for six days after first speaking with the journalists who published the story.

Kavanaugh denies the claims.

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” he wrote in a statement. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”

But it’s now emerged that Kavanaugh, 53, and his staff were reportedly sending text messages to former Yale classmates to underplay these allegations — before the story was actually published.

In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record to defend him. Another two messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates before The New Yorker story broke, suggesting Kavanaugh knew about Ramirez’s allegations in advance.

A judge trying to influence potential witnesses should raise legal eyebrows.

A one-time classmate of Kavanaugh said he was a habitual heavy drinker, challenging the judge’s Senate testimony to the contrary.

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” Chad Ludington told reporters.

The North Carolina State University professor, who said he had contacted the FBI with his information, indicated on Sunday in a statement that Kavanaugh was “belligerent and aggressive” when he drank.

A separate report published by The New York Times today claims Kavanaugh has a history of alcohol-related violence during this period of his life.

Sure, valid criticisms can be made of how Democrats have politicised the nomination – but so have Republicans and Trump.

But partisan crap aside, Kavanaugh is looking increasingly risky for, if not outright unsuitable for, a position on the US Supreme Court,

FBI ‘background investigation’ requested before Kavanaugh vote

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that the FBI conduct a background investigation before a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They want this done in just a week, but it seems a prudent pause in proceedings.

Reuters (Twitter):

Republican Senator Flake says it would be proper to delay floor vote on Kavanaugh for up to one week.

Senate Judiciary Committee will request Trump administration has FBI conduct background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

Senate panel says supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh, must be completed in one week.

One week isn’t a lot of time for this, but it is better than a highly politicised Senate hearing that proved little apart from vested interests and manipulation of both Republicans and Democrats.

Vox:  Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Also from Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

It may be up to the FBI now to get some questions answered.

A dramatic last-minute demand by Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Friday prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek an FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations that have riveted the country and imperiled his confirmation chances.

The Republican-led committee approved Kavanaugh’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate over Democratic opposition, with Flake providing the decisive vote.

But Flake, a moderate Republican, cast his vote only after asking the panel to request that the Trump administration pursue an FBI probe of the explosive allegations against Kavanaugh and delay a final Senate confirmation vote for up to a week to allow the investigation to run its course.

Flake’s action came a day after the Judiciary Committee’s jarring and emotional hearing into the allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high schools students in Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Flake’s action put the confirmation prospects for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, in further jeopardy in a Senate only narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Republican Senate leaders agreed to Flake’s demand but the White House would have to direct the FBI to act. Trump said earlier he would rely on the Senate’s decision about how to move forward.

I think the White House will have to direct the FBI to act, otherwise a could will keep hanging over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It sounds like Trump may have been given a choice of this or insufficient votes in support of the nomination.

Ford testimony, Kavanaugh response

Christine Blasey Ford has been giving testimony on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the US Senate.

This is on events alleged to have happened a long time ago.

Ford seems like a genuine and credible witness, but memories are no always accurate over long periods of time in particular. However it does seem that she has genuine beliefs about what happened.

Kavanaugh has not looked or sounded convincing in what I have seen of him denying things.

From Reuters:

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies on Capitol Hill regarding sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford

Kavanaugh says he was not at the party described by Dr. Ford

Kavanaugh says he had demanded a hearing, says his family and name have been destroyed by accusations against him

Kavanaugh says Democratic rhetoric, reaction against him aimed to ‘blow me up and take me down’

Kavanaugh cites a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare him and drive him out of the process, ‘crazy stuff’, says the opposition against him has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled by anger against Trump; ‘This is a circus’

Kavanaugh says he will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process, says while he may be defeated in the final vote, he will never quit; says due process means listening to both sides

Kavanaugh says he is ‘innocent’ and that he has ‘never done this’ to Ford ‘or to anyone’

Kavanaugh says no one ever accused him of any kind of sexual misconduct through his career; categorically and unequivocally denies the accusations against him by Ford

Williams versus Craig in the Supreme Court

The Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation saga reached the Supreme Court this week. Most media must be over this spat as it was largely ignored.

But for those who aren’t over it yet, Asher Emanuel covered it well for The Spinoff – ‘Who do you despise more?’ Jordan Williams and Colin Craig at the Supreme Court

The jury seem to have despised Craig the most, but the trial judge said that tainted their decision.

Here’s the ‘the very abbreviated version” of the background:

Earlier this year an appeal court said that these long-running defamation proceedings had “exposed serious flaws in the characters of both protagonists”, which is also a fair description of the events which led to this week’s Supreme Court hearing.

In the weeks before the 2014 general election, polls showed the Conservative Party to be a genuine prospect to enter parliament. Two days before the vote, Colin Craig’s press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, resigned unexpectedly. The party ended up falling a percentage point short of the threshold required to make it.

After the election, MacGregor told Williams, an acquaintance of hers, that Craig had sexually harassed her. She later filed a claim of sexual harassment with the Human Rights Tribunal, which was settled in mediation with Craig in early 2015. The settlement included a confidentiality agreement and she considered the matter at an end.

Despite promising MacGregor and her lawyer he would keep her story and documents she’d entrusted to him confidential, Williams used the information in what a judge later described as a “campaign” to have Craig removed as leader of the party. Williams told the party board members, informed Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust that he should prepare to fill the party leadership, and authored posts for Whale Oil under the pen name “Concerned Conservative” alleging Craig sexually harassed MacGregor as well as publishing a poem Craig had sent her.

Craig responded by calling a press conference to announce a pamphlet he’d put together about “the dirty politics agenda and what they have been up to in recent weeks”. There had been a campaign of defamatory lies about him, he said. He’d never sexually harassed anybody, claims otherwise were false, and in the next 48 hours he would be suing Jordan Williams, Cameron Slater, and a member of the Conservative Party board member John Stringer for $300,000, $650,000 and $600,000 respectively.

At a cost of $250,000 he had the pamphlet — replete with strange capitalisation, a cartoon and an obviously fictitious interview between Colin Craig and a Mr X (actually also Colin Craig) — sent to 1.6 million homes.

Williams sued Craig, saying Craig had defamed him by calling him a liar and implying Williams was dishonest, deceitful, a serial liar, not to be trusted, and lacking in integrity. Williams won and was awarded $1.27 million, the largest defamation award ever made in New Zealand. (The trial judge did, though, find there was some evidence that Williams had been dishonest and deceitful, and could not be trusted.)

Both Craig and Williams had their reputations tarnished by the trial, but the jury decided that Craig’s responses to Williams’ attacks were excessive.

The appeal court worried that the size of the original award was more about punishing Craig than vindicating Williams’ reputation. Indeed, Craig’s lawyer had said, pretty candidly, that the he thought the jury “hated” Craig.

And Williams’ reputation was not worth $1.27 million.

“The trial process revealed that Mr Williams had accused Mr Craig of sexual harassment against Ms MacGregor but himself harboured offensive attitudes towards women,” the court said, referring to Facebook messages between Williams and Cameron Slater published by the hacker Rawshark and put in evidence by Craig.

“A damages award should restore Mr Williams’ reputation to the status it ought it to have enjoyed if this element of his character was known publicly. The law must be concerned with the reputation he deserved and compensate accordingly.”

Williams won’t have been well known to the general public but many of those who followed politics and ‘Dirty Politics’ are likely to have not rated his reputation highly before his spat with Craig.

And this week the spat reached the Supreme Court.

The precise legal issues involved are particularly technical and arcane — for instance, which elements of the defence of qualified privilege are for a judge to decide, and which are for a jury.

But the essence of each party’s case is simple enough. Williams wants the jury’s verdict to stand, including the enormous damages award. He disagrees with the trial judge’s decision to order a retrial of the whole case, and the appeal court decision that any damages should be far more modest.

Craig, presumably, just wants it all to go away. The jury shouldn’t have taken away his defence. He had been defending his political standing, his lawyer explained. He had retaliated to “protect his reputation as a man, a husband and a father.” Williams, by contrast, was overly hasty, exaggerated his claims, breached various assurances of confidentiality, was uninterested in evidence which contradicted his views, et cetera.

In this case, the privilege Craig relied on is the right to respond to an attack on one’s reputation. Williams attacked Craig, so Craig was entitled to respond. But there are limits. For instance, Craig would lose the defence if he was mainly motivated by “ill will”, including if he didn’t believe what he was saying was true.

Craig’s lawyer said he honestly believed that he had not sexually harassed MacGregor, and that the relationship was close and to some extent reciprocated. The judge’s instructions to the jury made it seem like it was easy for Craig to lose his defence, the lawyer argued.

Williams’ lawyer said Craig knew he sexually harassed MacGregor, he knew his remarks about Williams were false, and the defence was not available to him, as the jury decided.

The lawyers, who must have already cost their clients huge amounts of money, went over all of this over two days in front of five Supreme Court judges.

The outcome will be awaited. The jury’s verdict could be reinstated. A retrial could be ordered, either in whole or just on damages, which retrial could in turn give rise to further appeals, and so on and so on. Unfortunately, the courts cannot substitute their own view on damages unless the parties consent. And agreement to let the court assess damages has not been reached, despite some pleading from the appeals court.

In time a verdict will come out, but that will only determine who this saga will proceed to yet another court.

And that’s not all for Craig. He is still waiting for a verdict on his defamation and counter claim versus Cameron Slater, now well over a year after the trial. perhaps that has been waiting to see the outcome of this saga, as any monetary award would have to add up alongside whatever Williams ends up with being awarded.

And that’s not all for Slater – Blomfield v Slater trial date set

A defamation proceeding brought by Matthew Blomfield against Cameron Slater that was started in the District Court in 2012 will finally go to trial in the High Court in October. It will be judge only (no jury), and is expected to run for four weeks or six weeks (two recent judgments give different durations).

It’s hard to see there being any winners out of all of this, financially at least. The cost of taking defamation to court is horrendous, and as Williams and Craig have found out the cost to their reputations can be high as well.