Judge Mark Warby has granted Meghan Markle a 10-month adjournment until fall 2021 in her High Court case against the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers Group on Thursday. The Duchess of Sussex's case was due to be heard on January 11th, but her legal team filed an application for a delay in the case.
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over five articles published, two in the Mail on Sunday and three in the Mail Online, that included contents of a private letter she sent to her father in August 2018 without her permission. Her team is suing the group for breach of privacy, including copyright infringement, misuse of private information, and breach of the U.K.'s Data Protection Act.
A confidential hearing took place Thursday morning in London with the judge hearing evidence from both sides. After reviewing the motions privately, Judge Warby ruled, “the right decision in all the circumstances is to grant the application to adjourn. That means the trial date of January 11, 2021 will be vacated and the trial will be revised for a new date in the autumn." The judge added, “I’m confident that we’ll be able to find a time in the autumn in October or November in which the trial can be conducted.”
The Duchess's legal team is confident in their case based on the facts of laws, a source close to Meghan shared with ELLE.com: “We do not believe that the defense’s case has chance of succeeding, and do not believe there is a compelling reason for trial.”
Meghan’s legal team was also granted permission to apply for a summary judgement in the case at an additional hearing, now scheduled for mid-January. If granted, Judge Warby would have the latitude to throw out the case based on the law and its merits or have the case heard privately. A private trial would not require Meghan or her friends to be called as witnesses and testify publicly.
“We are confident in our case and therefore believe it should be determined on a summary basis, and will make that case at the hearing in January,” a source close to the Duchess shared with ELLE.com.
While the decision was greeted favorably by Meghan's team, Meghan’s father Thomas Markle submitted a statement through the defendant's lawyers that he preferred the trial to proceed on the initial timetable. "I am a realist and I could die tomorrow,” Thomas said in the statement. “The sooner this case takes place the better." Thomas, who missed his daughter's wedding to Prince Harry due to a heart attack and stents being installed, asked the Court to proceed on the initial timetable.
Thomas' comments were revealed in a statement provided by Elizabeth Hartley, group legal director of Associated Newspapers, and published in the Daily Mail. Thomas gave her permission to share his remarks.
Thomas said, "This case is causing me anxiety, and I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. I am 76 years old and as a result of my heart condition and surgery, I am on blood thinners, which have had an effect on my breathing."
"I am unable to walk far or up many stairs," he continued. "I can't take more than 30 or 40 steps without getting winded and needing to slow down until I have caught my breath. I have had a cold for three to four years, which is connected to my heart and lung issues. I am clinically obese, and I have gained more weight during the past months because I have been unable to leave my house to take any exercise. I am pre-diabetic."
Thomas was scheduled to give evidence at the trial. It will likely be the first time the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have seen Meghan's father since he sold a series of photographs to a number of tabloid outlets ahead of their nuptials, which contributed to a breakdown in Markle's relationship with his daughter.
A source close to Meghan shared their concern that in recent months, the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspaper Group have expanded the case beyond the original filing. Just last month at a pre-trail hearing, the publications' legal team petitioned the court to incorporate the biography Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand as part of its defense. The newspaper claims the Duke and Duchess authorized information and provided access to the authors through their friends and associates. The Duchess appealed to have that ruling vacated on Thursday but was denied.
A source close to Meghan told ELLE.com that the opposing counsel trying to include details of the Duchess’s friends, people who worked for her, and even members of the royal family is a distraction and that it's time to refocus the case on what actually matters.
The case will now be heard at the earliest in October 2021 if the judge doesn’t make a summary ruling sooner. A similar ruling for summary judgment by a member of the royal family took place in 2006, when Prince Charles was granted a summary judgment against the Mail on Sunday. For now, both sides plan to argue their cases vigorously.
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