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‘So-called terrorist’ accuses Chief Justice of bias

An ACT businessman has accused a Chief Justice of ruling against him because he was a “so-called terrorist”.

user iconNaomi Neilson 08 April 2024 Big Law
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Jeff Manny told the Court of Appeal he was allegedly discriminated against by Chief Justice Helen Murrell because he was a “Muslim and a so-called terrorist” and the other party was a lawyer.

The sensational allegation was made after Chief Justice Murrell dismissed Manny’s claims that law firm David Lardner Lawyers and solicitor Ernest David Lardner had breached their contract, fiduciary duties and duty of care when they represented him a decade ago.

Manny had alleged Chief Justice Murrell did not give him a fair hearing or judgment because of his beliefs, but this claim was found to be without foundation “and therefore baseless” by Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson and Justice Patrick O’Sullivan.

 
 

Justice Verity McWilliam added the term “terrorist” was used by Manny as a “flourish” to push the “negative stereotype”.

“To the extent that Manny sought to make anything of his Muslim culture as in some way giving rise to an apprehension of basis that this factor might have influenced the primary judge’s conclusions, the transcript of the hearing does not in any way support a fear that such factor bore upon the primary judge’s findings.

“From the perspective of a hypothetical informed lay observer, any connection between Manny’s beliefs and the primary judge’s credit findings or ultimate conclusions is neither logical nor reasonable on the evidence before this court,” Justice McWilliam said.

Manny also accused Chief Justice Murrell of misusing her power by “taking over” his matter against the law firm from Justice McWilliam.

The Court of Appeal found no basis for this contention because Chief Justice Murrell heard his matter “from opening to closing”.

“To contend that any judge, far less a Chief Justice, has misused their power ‘to take over a hearing’… and in circumstances where the subtext is that the power was exercised for an improper purpose is an extremely serious allegation,” the court added.

Justice McWilliam said it was important to note there were moments during the hearing when Chief Justice Murrell might have been perceived as having been “rude or intemperate” towards Manny.

In one example, Chief Justice Murrell told Manny to “shush” when he interrupted her and told him he was making it “very, very difficult” to have a discussion with lawyers while he was in the witness box.

Justice McWilliam said Chief Justice Murrell repeatedly told Manny to remain silent when she was making a ruling on an objection.

“Having read the transcript, the primary judge’s conduct was directed on each occasion to ensuring the orderly conduct of the trial.

“The outward conduct of the trial would not lead a fair-minded lay observer to have a concern that the trial judge might not have brought an impartial mind to bear on the procedural decisions to be made,” Justice McWilliams found.

In addition to dismissing his application for appeal, the court ordered Manny to pay costs.