Former attorney general Christian Porter is acting for underworld figure Mick Gatto to appeal to the high court in his defamation case against the ABC.
Gatto has sued public broadcaster and journalists Nino Bucci, who now works for Guardian Australia, and Sarah Farnsworth over an article he says falsely accused him of threatening to kill the gang lawyer and police informant. police, Nicola Gobbo.
Victoria’s Supreme Court rejected Gatto’s claim that the article implied he was a hitman and murderer, prompting an unsuccessful appeal to Victoria’s Court of Appeal over whether it conveyed the meaning that he had threatened to kill Gobbo.
In May, Gatto applied to the High Court for special leave to appeal the decision. According to submissions dated May 11, filed with the court and viewed by Guardian Australia, he is represented by lawyers Guy Reynolds, Porter and Daniel Ward.
Lawyers in Australia are subject to the rank of taxi rule, which means they are prohibited from dismissing a case except in limited circumstances, ensuring that clients choose their lawyer, not the other way around.
In February, Guardian Australia reported that Porter, who retired from politics in the 2022 election, had set up two new private companies, Henley Stirling Lawyers Pty Ltd and Henley Stirling Consultants Pty Ltd, to prepare for life after. politics.
Porter said he was the sole director of the two firms, which were created to conduct a post-election legal practice and pursue “possible future writing ventures.”
Gatto’s lawyer seeks to reaffirm that the article conveyed meanings, including that Gatto threatened to kill police, is one of Australia’s most violent criminals and has been proven to have organized murders in the past.
They argued that the appeals court had applied the “wrong standard of review” and should not have applied the “one-way rule” to determine what the article conveyed.
Gatto’s lawyers complained that although the report “purports to be an account of legal proceedings”, it contains “a very large number of hearsay statements”.
“For example, the post states eight times (including in the headline) that ‘gang character Mick Gatto threatened to kill police informant 3838, court told’.”
Given this, it was “impossible to see how the VCA could have considered that this imputation had not been passed on”, they said.
The CBA opposes Gatto’s request for special leave to appeal.
In its submissions, the ABC said Gatto was asking the High Court to “substitute its own decision in circumstances where the result below is neither abnormal nor unfair”.
The CBA argued that the appeals court applied the correct standard of review, which begins with “identifying the error”. She rejected the allegation that she used the test of whether a meaning is “reasonably open”.
In their responses, Gatto’s lawyers said the appeals court judgment was “superficial” in the way it dealt with the six meanings, with “barely a word from the publication” mentioned.
They asked the high court to hear the case, arguing that the full Federal Court and Victoria Court of Appeal disagreed on the proper standard of review.
In March 2021, Porter named himself as the person at the center of an ABC report that documented 1988 rape allegations against an unnamed minister, brought by a woman who has since died.
Porter vehemently denied the allegations and filed a defamation suit against the ABC. It closed the case in May 2021. The ABC agreed to add an editor’s note to its story saying it “regrets” that some readers “misinterpreted” the article “as an accusation of guilt against Mr. Porter”.
Guardian Australia has contacted Porter for comment.