The lawyer who headed up Seven Network’s successful bid to prevent its former X Factor judge Mel B from appearing on Channel Nine’s Australia’s Got Talent heaped pressure on the NSW Supreme Court to deliver a swift decision as filming of the television shows was about to commence.
Seven’s triumph in its courtroom battle with Nine over Mel B appearing on its revamped series of Australia’s Got Talent took less than a month from filing to judgment.
"The court was told in no uncertain terms that this was urgent and that the parties needed to have an answer … the court recognised that it needed to hear [the matter] quickly and accommodated us,” said Justine Munsie, who led the Addisons Lawyers’ team acting for Seven.
Munsie added that "there’s nothing slow about the court system” after the speedy trial and judgment resulted in Mel B being blocked from appearing on any other network this year.
Munsie said the expedited process meant her legal bill to Seven was significantly lower than if the matter had progressed at the usual pace. "The longer a case drags on, the longer the preparation time and the longer the hearing time … costs just mount exponentially, so if you can cut it off you do cut costs.”
She also said the speedy outcome also relied on the availability of NSW Supreme Court judge Justice Hammerschlag. "Courts aren’t going to fast-track everything, but it can in an appropriate case where you have a judge willing to hear and deliver a fast judgment,” added Munsie.
Earlier this year, Mel B informed Seven that, for personal reasons, she was not able to travel to Australia to be a judge on the talent show The X Factor. But weeks after talks with Seven, she was announced as a star on Nine’s rival program, Australia’s Got Talent.
Seven relied on the contract with Mel B, which prevented her from working for any rival network in Australia.
Hammerschlag decided that Seven was entitled to restrain Mel B under its contract and that at no time had Seven agreed to discharge her from the contract.
Munsie admitted that in the entertainment industry most cases involving a breach of contract of this nature are settled out of court or are not pursued at all if a suitable replacement is found.
But, in this case, Mel B’s defection to a rival was the point of contention, she added.
Both Seven’s X Factor and Nine’s Australia’s Got Talent are due to air in the second half of 2013, with Nine reportedly considering Geri Halliwell to replace Mel B as the newest judge on the talent show.