The Bush Lawyer's Guide to

Avoiding and Surviving Litigation Against Public Participation

Defamation Commercial Torts Trade Practices Abuse of Process

A Guide for Political Activists by Dr Greg Ogle

Surviving Suits

A Guide for Political Activists

What you might get sued for

Avoiding defamation suits

Protest risk minimisation

Responding to legal threats

Further information sources

Sport! Having fun with litigation

Being a Bush Lawyer

Bush Lawyer Awards

Threatening Wallpaper

Bush Lawyer Cases & Politics

Beating a SLAPP suit: Animal Lib SA

Gunning for Change: The Need for Public Participation Law Reform

The Gunns Case: Chilling the Environment Movement

Bruce Donald summarises a number of cases of "Defamation Against Public Interest Debate"

Hindmarsh Island - early days

Approaching the Court

This website is authorised by Greg Ogle on behalf of Bush Lawyers Ink, a not for profit legal service brought to you by the legal system's inability to protect the community's right and ability to participate in public debate and protest.

 

The Bush Lawyer's book

In December 2004, forestry giant Gunns Ltd sued Bob Brown, The Wilderness Society and eighteen other environmentalists as a result of the campaign to protect Tasmania’s forests. During the next five years, Gunns suffered a series of legal losses and capitulated against many of the defendants, paying them over $1m in costs. It was left with an expensive rump of a case against a handful of defendants.  

This book tells the inside story of the defence of the Gunns 20 case and of a number of other similar, but no less dangerous, law suits.

In a personal account of more than a decade defending so-called “SLAPP suits” over the Hindmarsh Island bridge, battery hens and the Tasmanian forests, this book tells the history of the cases and their impact on the defendants and the community. It illustrates the effect of such litigation on free speech and political protest, and makes a call for law reform to ensure that these incursions on civil liberties never happen again.

To purchase Gagged: The Gunns 20 and other law suits on line go to:

http://www.envirobook.com.au/Publishing/publishing.htm

144 pages            RRP $22.95

 Or order it from your local bookshop: ISBN 978 0 85881 1 229 1

Comments on the book

“This is a compelling story of big corporations, pompous lawyers, stuffy judges and brave individuals that is told in an engaging and entertaining way. In relating the sometimes enraging, sometimes hilarious twists and turns of the legal cases, Ogle candidly reveals the impacts on his own personal life and political philosophy. This is a great contribution to public debate in Australia and an empowering read for anyone campaigning for the environment or human rights.

Geoff Law, adventurer, conservationist, defendant.

“I spent over 4 years being sued by Gunns, but reading this book was the first time I really knew what had happened in a court case often too complicated for even the defendants to understand. There is a dry wit in this easily digestible tale which successfully marries the details of the legal cases with the broader perspective of Australians’ right to freedom of speech.”

Heidi Douglas, film maker, defendant.

Reviews

Brian Martin, "Book Review: Gagged" in The Whistle, No. 61, January 2010.

PostScript

Gagged was completed in about September 2009. At that time there were six defendants remaining in the original case, and Frank Nicklason defending the now separate defamation case. At the time I wrote:

I don’t know if that [Gunns 20] case, or the case against Frank Nicklason, will actually get to trial, [but] apart from the very real impact on the defendants, I don’t think any trial outcome matters to my main argument. The central issue was never about the merits of the case, but rather that it should never have been in court. The effect of the case on people, on political protest and public debate were felt long before a trial. I may be surprised, but I can see no conceivable trial outcome that would change that argument.

There was no trial outcome. On 9 October 2009, Frank Nicklason settled with an apology for not going to Gunns before going to the media (not an apology for the content of what he said) and promptly re-stated his objections. There were no winners. Two defendants in original case, Louise Morris and Neal Funnel gave limited undertakings and exited the case in late November 2009, meaning the only claims left in the case related to a couple of protests at Lucaston in 2003. On the eve of the scheduled trial (2 February 2010), Gunns settled these claims as well, paying the defendants $155,000 for their trouble. The dynamics leading to settlement were not very different from The Wilderness Society settlement described in the book, but if anything Gunns was under more pressure. We celebrated, and the best end of case summary was probably the carton in the Hobart Mercury.

 

Remember the bush lawyer's golden rule

Be careful, not silent

For further information on bush lawyering or this website, email greg_ogle@yahoo.com