find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Ashby case proves costly for Harmers

Ashby case proves costly for Harmers

Two years and more than $1 million in legal costs later, James Ashby has pulled the plug on his sexual harassment suit against Peter Slipper.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers has been bankrolling Ashby in his legal action against the former parliamentary Speaker since 2012. The firm would not comment on its role in Ashby’s decision to drop the case when approached by Lawyers Weekly. However, Ashby said in a statement that Harmers was prepared to continue representing him on a pro bono basis.

Ashby cited emotional and family reasons for his decision to end the Federal Court action.

He also claimed the aim of the lawsuit, which was to stop Slipper’s alleged sexual harassment, had been achieved.

The statement included glowing references for Harmers. Ashby described the firm as “unflinching” in its legal and moral support, adding it funded the action out of “a genuine sense of social justice”.

Ashby’s praise of his legal counsel stands in stark contrast to comments made by Federal Court Justice Steven Rares when he threw out the lawsuit in December 2012, claiming it was a politically-motivated abuse of process.

Rares also took aim at the conduct of Harmers chairman Michael Harmer. In his judgment, Rares slammed Harmer for including “scandalous and irrelevant” allegations in the statement of claim.

Harmer appealed the decision claiming he was “aggrieved” and “prejudicially affected” by Rares’ findings.

In February, the Full Federal Court sided with Harmer; it stated he had not been treated fairly by Rares and the adverse findings in relation to his professional conduct “ought not to have been made”.

“The denial of this opportunity [for Harmer to respond], and lack of personal representation, rendered Harmer in an effectively defenceless position in relation to the concerns as to his professional integrity raised by the primary judge,” according to the judgment.

The Court also found, by a vote of two to one, that Ashby’s lawsuit was not an abuse of process and should proceed, with a hearing scheduled for 30 June.

A Harmers spokesperson said the decision “vindicates the professional behaviour of Michael Harmer and Harmers Workplace Lawyers” when asked by Lawyers Weekly whether the firm’s reputation had suffered as a result of the highly-publicised case.

In April 2013, Harmers was criticised by another Federal Court judge, Robert Buchanan, for acting in its own financial interests. Buchanan’s remarks referred to the firm’s conduct during a sexual harassment case involving Oracle employee Rebecca Richardson, who was ordered to pay legal costs running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Harmer appealed the judgment, which he said suggested the firm engaged in professional misconduct. The Full Federal Court dismissed the appeal.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Ashby case proves costly for Harmers
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...