In Friday’s special leave hearings (the first since Nettle J joined the bench), the High Court granted special leave to appeal to five cases. That is the highest number of special leave applications granted in a single day since May last year. Moreover, all five are high profile matters:
- CFMEU v Boral Resources (Vic) Pty Ltd  VSCA 261 involves an application for the CFMEU to be punished for contempt of court for alleged breaches of orders made by the Supreme Court barring the union from discouraging workers or deliveries to a construction site for the Regional Rail Link. Ahead of the trial, the Court of Appeal upheld a civil ‘discovery’ order requiring the union to provide business cards and employment contracts for people seen at the site who are alleged to be its officials, rejecting an argument that civil discovery should not be ordered against an accused in a criminal contempt matter. The Court of Appeal conceded that ‘a number of the issues raised in this application involve matters as to which reasonable minds may differ’ and observed that ‘some of the implications of’ a 1993 High Court decision ruling that corporations cannot claim the privilege against self-incrimination ‘are still to be fully grasped’.
- D’Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc  FCAFC 115 concerns the validity of patent for BRCA1, a gene that disposes people to breast and ovarian cancer. A five-judge bench of the Federal Court held that isolated nucleic DNA is an invention within the meaning of the 1623 Statute of Monopolies and, hence, is capable of being patented under the Patents Act 1990 (Cth).
- Firebird Global Master Fund II Ltd v Republic of Nauru  NSWCA 360 involves an order made by the Tokyo District Court requiring Nauru to pay 1.3 Billion yen to an investment fund for defaulted bonds. The NSW Court of Appeal rejected an attempt by the fund to require payment of the debt from Nauru’s accounts held at Westpac, holding that the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985 (Cth): required that Nauru be served before a foreign order against it could be registered; exempted Nauru from a time limit for objecting; provided Nauru with an immunity from the enforcement of foreign orders in Australian courts; and included Nauru’s Westpac bank accounts within that immunity.
- Isbester v Knox City Council  VSCA 214 involves a question of life and death for Izzy, a Staffordshire Terrier. After Izzy’s owner pled guilty to the offence of owning a dog that caused a ‘serious injury’ (defined to include a cut on a person’s hand), a council panel decided in October 2013 to order Izzy’s destruction. The Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed the owner’s argument that the panel was potentially biased because one of its members was the informant in the preceding prosecution.
- WZAPN v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  FCA 947 is a holding by a single judge of the Federal Court that the Minister wrongly rejected a claim for refugee protection by a stateless Faili Kurd who argued that he feared being routinely detained and questioned in Iran by the Basij, a group charged with protecting Islamic values. Justice North ruled that the Minister should have considered, before holding that the man’s fears were neither serious nor of persecution, whether or not the Basij’s actions were reasonably appropriate and adapted to a legitimate Iranian national objective. (Last month, Hayne J refused to halt the deportation of a Tamil Sri Lankan who argued that North J’s decision barred his return to Sri Lanka where he may face punishment for leaving Sri Lanka without permission.)