A Supreme Court justice has sought legal advice from a defamation lawyer about potentially suing a silk over an online article he wrote.
A Supreme Court justice has sought legal advice from a defamation lawyer about potentially suing a silk over an online article he wrote.

Supreme Court justice seeks may sue barrister for defamation

AN NT Supreme Court Justice has sought legal advice from a defamation lawyer about potentially suing a Darwin silk for "substantial damages" over an online article he wrote.

Justice Judith Kelly recused herself from hearing the matter of Renae Bretherton in the Darwin Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, telling the court it was because Bretherton was being represented by well-known Darwin silk John Lawrence SC.

She said she had sought advice from a "senior defamation silk" about potentially suing Mr Lawrence over the article.

Justice Judith Kelly said she has sought legal advice from a defamation lawyer.
Justice Judith Kelly said she has sought legal advice from a defamation lawyer.

"I have obtained an opinion from a senior defamation lawyer, a senior defamation silk, to the effect that Mr Lawrence has defamed me in an online article and in that his opinion there are no available defences and that damages are likely to be substantial," Justice Kelly told the court.

She said she had not decided whether or not she was planning to actually file a defamation claim, but that she felt she should recuse herself from the matter.

"I have not made a final decision as to whether or not I'm going to take that any further," she said.

"Of course, I would not let that effect my consideration of Ms Bretherton's matter.

"But, it does seem to me that a fair-minded observer with knowledge of those facts might think that I may not bring an open and unbiased mind to the consideration of any matter in which Mr Lawrence appears as counsel and that I should therefore recuse myself."

After asking if Mr Lawrence agreed, he confirmed that he did.

"I should add that that article did not refer to me personally but it did refer to all the Justices of this court and so that advice would apply in the same terms to them, but I'm the one who sought the advice and I'm the one who is contemplating taking action," Justice Kelly said.

"Ms Bretherton's matter will have to be dealt with by another judge."

Mr Lawrence asked Justice Kelly to disclose which article she was referring to, which she refused to do.

It comes after Mr Lawrence sparked controversy when independent publishing group Arena published an opinion piece he wrote criticising the NT's criminal legal system on its website last year.

Bretherton's matter was adjourned to later this month.

sarah.matthews1@news.com.au

Originally published as Supreme Court Justice seeks advice about potentially suing Darwin silk for defamation


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