Legal skulduggery knows no bounds at Auckland Council (defending Phil Goff)

The Free Speech Coalition have been working their arse off preparing for the court hearing next week standing up to Phil Goff who wants to be able to dictate whose views are acceptable and not acceptable at ratepayer-funded venues.

It seems Auckland Council have told their lawyers to go dirty and presumably try to burn out the coalition’s crowdfunded efforts. Quote:

The Free Speech Coalition is calling on Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to clarify his position on the fact that the Free Speech Coalition-led legal challenge to his and the Council’s decision to deplatform Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern is being funded by mum and dad New Zealanders, after lawyers acting for Mr Goff and the Council flagged that they may try to strike out the proceedings on the basis that the court challenge is ‘litigation funded’ (i.e. crowdfunded).

“Courts have laid down rules for disclosing some parts of commercial litigation funding arrangements as they want to know if the funder’s prospect of profit might result in an abuse of the court process,” says Jordan Williams, a lawyer and one of the initial members of the Coalition. “Courts want to know if it will distort the plaintiff’s decisions, for example by unreasonably preventing settlement.”

“But New Zealand courts have never applied that approach to public interest legal action. Auckland Council knows that the people chipping in to get the court’s protection for free speech have no profit motive. None of them can benefit personally. All their benefit is altruistic; to protect against politicians misusing their power and control of public assets to stifle speech they don’t want their voters to hear. This is about principle.”

“The funding issue, while academically interesting, is an expensive distraction from the important freedom of expression issues at the heart of this case. So why are Mr Goff and the Council throwing this up as a red herring?” End quote.

I think we all know the answer to that. You and I have to pay our rates – meaning Goff has limitless money to spend on lawyers – while the free-speech group have to go cap in hand for money. The council are trying to burn them out. Quote:

By flagging a possible challenge to the way in which the applicants’ case is funded, the Mayor and Council have forced the Free Speech Coalition and its lawyers to divert valuable resources to address a side issue. Unlike the Council, we do not have unlimited money to spend on this litigation. End quote.

Yip – why I donated here. I always thought their $50,000 goal was too low. Auckland Council will be spending that in a day. Quote:

More than a thousand New Zealanders donated to the Free Speech Coalition in order to uphold the Bill of Rights Act and the fundamental right of freedom of speech. It is outrageous that Mr Goff and the Council would even consider trying to have the claim struck out on the basis that it is crowdfunded.

This might just be an underhand legal tactic, designed to increase the costs to the Free Speech Coalition, a play for time, or a brain-fart that goes nowhere. But either way, Mr Goff and the Council, who are using ratepayer money to defend their decision, should make it clear that they will not try to stop ratepayers using their own money to get a judge to rule on their powers, so that we can go back to focusing on the real issue in this case: whether or not the Mayor and Council can exercise a veto over freedom of speech. End quote.

Someone in the coalition told me that they are not worried about the council’s objection, but it’s the extra days of work by lawyers to deal with the matter and respond to the council’s attempt to strike it out. Quote:

The Free Speech Coalition launched on 9 July 2018, in response to Mr Goff’s decision to ban two controversial Canadian speakers from using Council-owned venues, and pledged to file legal proceedings if it could raise $50,000 by 5pm 13 July. It raised the target within 24 hours, and by the 13 July deadline had raised $89,000. 97 percent the total amount raised was from donations of less than $300, with 0.9 percent of donations $1000 or more, the largest being $5000. End quote.

So it’s not litigation funded by someone with an axe to grind at all. It’s crowdfunded. Quote:

With the funds, the Coalition engaged the public law firm Franks Ogilvie and Jack Hodder QC, and filed proceedings on 18 July.

Mr Goff who initially took full credit for the speaker ban, and said it on the basis of the speaker’s views, now says that it was the decision made by officials, and solely on the basis of safety concerns.

“The Free Speech Coalition do not endorse the views of the Canadian speakers, in fact many in the group find them repugnant. But that’s what standing up for freedom of speech is all about,” says Mr Williams. End quote.

Whenever you hear someone say, “I believe in freedom of speech but…” what they really mean is “I believe in freedom of speech, but really I don’t.”


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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