Background: To the Small Claims Court in Newmarket for the latest episode in the Matilde Di Muccio (aka “Maddie”) soap opera. She is suing Regional Councillor John Taylor for defamation. In March 2016 she amended her libel claim to include:
“misfeasance and malfeasance in public office during a March 2nd 2015 Town of Newmarket Council meeting, abuse of power, intentional infliction of mental suffering and injurious falsehoods, targeted malice, breach of confidence and breach of privacy; and, in doing so committed a legal tort in the eyes of the law.”
Days ago she sought to amend her claim yet again to remove her charge of libel against Taylor. But to do this she first had to seek the permission of the Court by way of a “notice of motion”. (Di Muccio wants to drop the action for libel because she believes it is “out-of-time” and would not succeed.)
The trial (Di Muccio v Taylor) is scheduled for 10am on Friday 28 October 2016 at the Small Claims Court in Eagle Street, Newmarket.
No death stare
I am already at the Court when Maddie Di Muccio arrives with her well-padded husband in tow. There are only three seats for the public and I am determined to bag one of them. She is stoney-faced (nothing new there) and doesn’t acknowledge my presence. Our eyes do not meet and I am spared the death stare this morning.
John Taylor is looking relaxed insofar as one can be in these peculiar circumstances.
We file into the tiny court room and I see in front of me Deputy Judge Paul Gollom who looks the part with his silver hair and black robe with the splendid red sash. He has a learned expression on his face and quickly shows himself to be on top of things. I breathe a sigh of relief.
Now Di Muccio is explaining to the judge that she is not allowed to make any amendments to her claim without the Court’s permission and she wants to make a “really minor” change. She tells the Judge she is not arguing about the alleged libel – without saying why she is dropping it. The charge of defamation stands.
Now Judge Gollum is walking us through Friday’s trial (which Di Muccio asserts will last two days). He tells us the presiding judge will ask “What are the real issues?”
Looking at Di Muccio, he says the Judge will ask: “What actually are you claiming for? What do you believe the claim is all about?” He will want to narrow down the issues and, once everything is clear, we could hear him say:
“Here we are. Let’s go!”
I am warming to Deputy Judge Gollum who is clear, precise and even tempered – unlike some of his brothers-in-law.
“off the table”
Now the Judge strikes out paragraph 29 of Di Muccio’s claim and libel disappears from the charge sheet. Just like that! Puff!
“Libel and slander are now off the table.”
An exasperated Taylor says this is his 6th time in Court and he confesses it is difficult to know what he is actually being accused of.
Di Muccio flares her nostrils in the way she does and snorts. He has known for months what my amended claim says!
The Judge is now looking at Taylor. He says the plaintiff (Di Muccio) is alleging defamation and misfeasance in office. Besmirching someone’s reputation can be done verbally or in writing – that would ordinarily be libel. The burden is on the plaintiff to establish this.
What am I being accused of?
He advises Taylor to explain to the trial Judge that, in order to defend himself, he needs to know exactly what he is being accused of and what the elements are.
So far so good. I am keeping up with this without difficulty.
But now the Judge warns:
“This is a complicated area of the law. When you come here you are expected to know the law - even if you are self represented.” (And both are.)
He says both sides can cite cases if they believe it will help the Court.
In my mind’s eye, I can see Di Muccio marching into a legal quagmire.
I learn Di Muccio will bring one other witness (other than herself) and will, of course, present her evidence first.
If it doesn’t hold water, the trial Judge can say at that point it has not been pled.
Or we could be entertained for two whole days.
You can read Di Muccio's claim and Taylor's defence here.