The AgeNews14/05/09picture Justin McManus.Vioxx Class Action case at the Federal court.Julian Burnside, representing the case against Vioxx, leaving ct. Photo: Justin McManusThe prominent silk acting for the former lover of Seven West Media boss Tim Worner has been rebuked by a Supreme Court judge for claiming she is taking on “one of the country’s biggest boys’ clubs”.
Amber Harrison, a former executive assistant at the media company, has been locked in a bitter court battle with Seven since she went public with embarrassing details of her affair with Mr Worner in December.
High-profile human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, QC, is acting for Ms Harrison, who is under a temporary gag order preventing her from speaking publicly about the company or the relationship.
Seven took urgent legal action against Ms Harrison in February to stop her from posting any information about the company or the affair on her Twitter account, which was set up to air her grievances.
On Thursday, Mr Burnside raised the ire of Seven and Supreme Court Justice John Sackar by branding Seven “one of the country’s biggest boys’ clubs”.
“That is just outrageous,” Seven’s barrister, Andrew Bell, SC, said.
An angry Justice Sackar extracted an apology from Mr Burnside.
“That was entirely inappropriate,” Justice Sackar said.
“It was gratuitous, it was uncalled for, I’m not even going to tolerate that … in this court.”
Mr Burnside denied he was throwing mud, prompting Justice Sackar to retort: “It looked like it and sounded like it.”
Seven’s legal team argued on Thursday that Ms Harrison is “barred” from suing the company because she signed an “extremely broad” deed of release promising not to take legal action after her affair with Mr Worner soured in mid-2014.
Ms Harrison has lodged a claim in the Federal Court in Melbourne seeking compensation and penalties from Seven for alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act.
She wants the entire dispute, including Seven’s Supreme Court application for a permanent gag order, transferred to the Federal Court in Melbourne and heard alongside her Fair Work claim.
Dr Bell told the court that transferring the proceedings would amount to “the tail wagging the dog” and was “contrary to the interests of justice”.
But Mr Burnside said Seven was a “national broadcaster” and it was “to say the least, very odd” for it to take a “parochial view” that the dispute had to be heard in a Sydney court.
“You have the same questions arising in two courts,” Mr Burnside said.
He said this was “especially burdensome” to the Melbourne-based Ms Harrison, whose financial resources could not match those of Seven.
Dr Bell said any overlap between the Supreme and Federal Court cases was “entirely manufactured” by Ms Harrison’s legal team to gain a tactical advantage in forcing the case to be transferred.
Justice Sackar reserved his decision on whether the proceedings can be transferred to the Federal Court.