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Update on Higgins’ court case with senator

Written by on May 10, 2024

Senator Linda Reynolds and her former staffer Brittany Higgins are headed to mediation one last time to try to resolve a defamation case launched by the senator against Ms Higgins and her fiance David Sharaz.

A strategic conference was held in the Supreme Court of Western Australia on Friday ahead of a trial that will take place in July if the matter remains unresolved.

Senator Reynolds is suing Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz over social media posts they made that she claims damaged her reputation.

Senator Reynolds claims the posts suggested that she had engaged in a cover-up over Ms Higgins’ allegations that she had been raped in the senator’s office by a colleague, Bruce Lehrmann, an allegation he has always denied.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee recently ruled that he was convinced to a civil standard – which is different to a criminal standard – that on the balance of probabilities Ms Higgins was raped.

That finding came following legal action Mr Lehrmann brought against Network 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a report on The Project program in 2021.

Justice Lee also found a political cover-up involving Senator Reynolds and others was not true, which Senator Reynolds said was vindication of her.

None of the parties were required to attend the strategic conference on Friday but were represented by their legal teams.

Justice Paul Tottle heard the matters separately, addressing the senator’s claim against Mr Sharaz first.

His lawyer Jason MacLaurin said Mr Sharaz would not contest liability but might want to be heard on damages.

During a hearing last month, Mr Sharaz issued a statement on social media that he would no longer contest the case, as he could not afford an ongoing legal battle with the senator. His lawyer stated that he did not want to “buy a ticket on the Titanic”.

Senator Reynolds’ lawyer Clinton Russell requested that Mr Sharaz attend the next strategic conference via video link to make clear his position so the court could hear “straight from the horse’s mouth”, but that requested was denied.

Ms Higgins’ lawyer Teresa Ward did not seek any variation to the orders that had been made.

She flagged they might seek to push back the start date of the trial if Mr Sharaz does not participate but still stay within the timetable that had been set by the court.

A mediation session between the parties is set to take place on May 21. If the matter is not resolved, lawyers will return for a strategic conference on May 24.

Outside court, Mr Russell said he did not know at this point what Mr Sharaz intended to do and he looked forward to receiving clarification.

“Once we know, we will go to mediation in good faith and see what happens,” he said.

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