Federal minister Christian Porter’s defamation case against the ABC has effectively been placed on pause until a judge decides if one of his senior lawyers has a conflict of interest.
One of Sue Chrysanthou SC’s former clients made an urgent application to the Federal Court on Wednesday to have the senior counsel removed as the former attorney general’s representative.
The client, Jo Dyer, has cited concern confidential information she shared when retaining Ms Chrysanthou will or could be used in the primary case.
Justice Tom Thawley has scheduled the Dyer-Chrysanthou matter for a three-day hearing beginning May 24.
Justice Jayne Jagot on Friday adjourned a case management hearing in the Porter-ABC case until May 26 to ensure the substantive proceedings were “protected”.
She didn’t, however, order a stay of proceedings or Ms Chrysanthou to be “quarantined” from the case, as earlier proposed.
Despite the delay, the eventual trial could be heard as early as September 27.
Justice Jagot said she preferred a start date of October 5 “for other reasons”.
November and December start dates are also options, she said.
Mr Porter is suing the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan for defamation over a February 26 online article headlined “Scott Morrison, senators and AFP told of historical rape allegation against cabinet minister”.
Mr Porter was not named in the article but alleges he was widely identified as the subject, including on social media.
In the high-stakes defamation case, the ABC argues Mr Porter can reasonably be suspected of raping a 16-year-old girl.
He says the historical rape allegations are false and has accused the national broadcaster of leading a determined campaign against him.
Mr Porter is trying to get the bulk of the ABC’s already redacted defence thrown out, with that matter to be heard over the first two days of June.