The Bush Lawyer's Guide to

Awards for dealing with litigation

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

Lead Cases to lean on and have sport with

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.

 

Awards

Like all sports, there are bush lawyer awards for achievements in the face of litigation.

Award for gratuitous publicity from a legal threat

While the Gunns20 defendants have got impressive publicity from the beginning of the case, the award for gratuitous publicity from a legal threat goes to Animal Lib in Canberra who planned a demo to protest the expansion of the zoo. The zoo threatened legal action over previous statements if the demo went ahead. With advice from Bush Lawyers and a media release headed "Controversial protest goes ahead despite legal threats", a protest of about a dozen people managed page 2 of the Canberra Times, wall to wall radio, and a number of follow up newspaper stories - including an Opinion piece: all for a very small protest which would otherwise have made absolutely no impact on the public consciousness! Guess what - no legal action has ensued.

Award for the most hopeful claim

A heavily contest category. This award could go to the legendary suit for the bumper sticker, "Barwon Water - Frankly Foul", but it gets disqualified because the bastards won. Gunns have put in a bid by claiming damages for interference with their contract with the Banksia Foundation when the woodchipper of old growth forests was taken out of the list of Banksia Environment Award finalists. Another logging company in Tasmania has put in a strong bid with a law suit alleging that a defendant had damaged their business by conspiring with unspecified people to do unspecified acts on unspecified days causing unspecified damages.  However, the award goes to Animal Lib SA who actually organised to get themselves sued for producing a T-shirt. Amid great publicity, the bush lawyers managed to twice defeat injunction attempts and argue for their right to wear their T-shirts. Click here for the full story.

Award for a case going nowhere

Again, the Gunns case could take this award as it has gone nowhere at all, but with 20 defendants and over 200 pages of claims it is too easy and it would be unfair for them to claim the award. The award must go to Animal Lib South Australia for Takhar v Animal Lib & Or after a very public raid on a battery hen factory in August 2000. It should have been and open and shut case, but after 5 years the pleadings still hadn't been finalised. With three thick case files on his desk, one judge remarked that "this case has been characterised by a plethora of pre-trial activity". The self-represented defendant bush lawyers took that as a compliment! The case settled  in May 2006: no money changes hands and the bush lawyer's understanding is that the undertakings given were completely meaningless.

The Houdini Award

The Houdini Award would have to go to fellow bush lawyer, Ralph Hahnheuser. The only question is for which particular legal escape. He could get the award for avoiding cross-examination on two mutually contradictory affidavits, or for surviving a bankruptcy claim (arising from court costs) because there were two debts listed on one piece of paper. And, if it was not beyond the rules (because it was a criminal claim), the award would have to go to Ralph for being acquitted on charges of food tampering for putting pizza ham in the food of sheep bound for live export to the Middle East. Facing serious jail, Houdini Hahnheuser's escape earned the ire of those who would think imprisoning sheep in stifling conditions is business as usual. They got the law changed in Victoria, but tried to further lynch Ralph by suing him in the Federal Court under the Trade Practices Act. The Houdini award goes to Ralph for winning that case - without even turning up to the trial. Even with pro bono legal representation, Ralph was unable to pay court fees and disbursements. He withdrew his legal team and was a no show at trial - leaving the farmers lobby with what looked like an empty victory, until the court did its own research and the judge found that animal welfare actions were covered by the exemption for environmental activities - meaning that the Act did not apply and the farmers were again lobbying for law reform.

Award for the best bush lawyer

The award could go to any activist who has actually managed to win with a defence of necessity, but they would have to share it with their friendly judge because you could almost guarantee it would not survive appeal. However, the award must surely go to Helen Steel and Dave Morris for their spectacular McLibel efforts. The longest running libel case in British legal history effectively took SLAPP suits off the corporate agenda for a decade. Not only did they seriously embarrass the hamburger giant, they kept going and went to the European Court and got a verdict against the British government for running an unfair legal system. From one who can imagine the stress and work involved, and who knows how important the case was, I "dips me lid" to the still undisputed champions of bush lawyering.

 

There should also be a series of awards for the judges and lawyers on the other side, but defamation laws prevent me from making awards for:

  • the most reactionary judge in a SLAPP suit
  • the most ludicrous claim in a SLAPP suit
  • the biggest gaff by a SLAPP suiting lawyer
  • the most pretentious SLAPP suiting lawyer
  • the worst response to a SLAPP suit by a community organisation

Remember the bush lawyer's golden rule

Be careful, not silent

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