A judge has spoken of his surprise before raising a ‘potentially embarrassing situation’ in Ben Roberts-Smith’s lawsuit against his ex wife.
A judge has asked Ben Roberts-Smith’s lawyers to confirm or deny media reports the elite soldier is dating one of his solicitors after a “potentially embarrassing situation” emerged.
But the lawyers say they may ask for the judge, Justice Robert Bromwich, to be removed from the case after His Honour disclosed he once met with Mr Robert-Smith’s father.
Justice Bromwich is dealing with Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawsuit against his ex wife, Emma Roberts, which is running alongside the SAS veteran’s main defamation lawsuit against Nine.
Mr Roberts-Smith claims his former wife may have accessed and shared confidential emails he’d sent to his lawyers and the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force.
His barrister, Arthur Moses SC, told the court it was urgent the court finds out if anything was shared in case it has a serious impact on the main defamation case.
But Justice Bromwich said he had read media reports Mr Roberts-Smith may have been in a “personal relationship” with one of his solicitors – and her name appeared on important court documents.
“It’s a potentially embarrassing situation… if it is correct it raises a question of utmost good faith,” he said.
“I’m surprised this wasn’t raised with me directly quite frankly. I’m surprised it was left for me to raise it.”
Justice Bromwich did not name the person at the centre of his query but last year he was photographed spending time with his lawyer Monica Allen including holding hands and riding scooters in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens.
As the barrister and judge spoke Ms Allen was dealing with documents in the unusually empty main courtroom where Mr Roberts-Smith will give evidence this week.
Mr Moses said he would take instructions and come back to Justice Bromwich about the validity of the media reports.
“Female lawyers have enough to deal with in this profession without these aspersions being put against them,” the barrister said.
Justice Bromwich said he was raising the concern with “anxiety” but he needed an explanation or a new affidavit to bypass that.
Justice Bromwich made his own disclosure on Wednesday morning – revealing he had met with Mr Roberts-Smith’s father seven or eight years ago.
Len Roberts-Smith is a former WA Supreme Court Judge and headed the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce – which looked into allegations of sexual abuse in the armed forces.
It was in that capacity Justice Bromwich said he met Mr Roberts-Smith.
“Nothing further came of it,” he told the court.
“I see no reason I should disqualify myself from this but thought it proper to raise it.”
But Mr Moses said he’d also seek instructions on whether he’d apply to have Justice Bromwich “recused” from the case.
The case was pushed back until Tuesday as the courts processed information Ms Roberts handed over to the registry in her home city of Brisbane.