Duchess Meghan replaced her lawyer in her lawsuit against the Daily Mail

The Duke of Sussex and Duchess of Sussex watch the wheelchair basketball final in Australia

The Duchess of Sussex’s lawsuit against the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday continues this week. The trial is not until January, but there is some kind of hearing this week, which just means that everybody is dragging out what should have been an open-and-shut case. The Mail had no right to publish Meghan’s letter to her father and they had even less of a right to completely misrepresent her letter and heavily edit her words. It’s that simple. The Mail is dragging this out to stick it to Meghan, to continue to abuse her and to continue to “report” on her. At least now she has… another lawyer?

The Duchess of Sussex’s legal case against the Mail on Sunday is due back in court later today, but her original legal council, David Sherborne, will not be present. The Times has confirmed that Mr Sherborne will no longer be representing the Duchess, with his ‘rival’ Justin Rushbrooke, QC, instead fighting her corner. The news comes after Mr Rushbrooke was called in to represent Meghan during the summer, when Mr Sherborne was tied up with another case – that of Johnny Depp vs The Sun.

Indeed, Mr Sherborne is a well-known celebrity lawyer, one who has frequently won privacy and defamation cases against publishers and the paparazzi. He rose to prominence during the Leveson Enquiry, representing the McCanns, the Dowler family, JK Rowling and Hugh Grant.

Mr Sherborne lost the first pre-trial hearing in May, with the Duchess forced to pay £67,888 in legal costs to the Mail on Sunday. Since then, Mr Rushbrooke (who took over from Sherborne during Depp’s trial) has successfully won Meghan’s bid to keep the privacy of her five friends who spoke to People about her relationship with her father intact.

Meghan is suing the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail for five different articles published in February 2019, which included the publication of extracts of a private letter she sent to her father. She is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

[From Tatler]

Honestly, I wouldn’t want Johnny Depp’s lawyer either, but I bet Meghan replaced Sherborne for other reasons besides that. I hope the change in counsel doesn’t affect her case, but I suspect it won’t, and I suspect that the case is mostly just nitpicking at this point. When this goes to trial (January), the Mail’s case is going to fall apart anyway, because they truly have NO CASE. All they have is whining and bitching about how they had a right to publish Meghan’s letter because they think they “own” her.

Richard Palmer says that the legal costs for both sides will end up being around £3 million. Which is insane. Meghan has already had to pay a fraction of that for the Mail’s lawyers, but if and when she wins the case, the Mail will have to pay her legal fees, correct? Well, at least now the royal reporters have another financial thing to complain about it. How dare Meghan hire such expensive lawyers? How dare she sue a British tabloid as they tried to smear her?

The Duke of Sussex and Duchess of Sussex watch the wheelchair basketball final in Australia

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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43 Responses to “Duchess Meghan replaced her lawyer in her lawsuit against the Daily Mail”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    Honestly it sounds to me like she may have just “clicked” with this other lawyer when he stepped in over the summer, or maybe she liked that he was able to protect her friends’ names.

    This is all so messy and I hope the final outcome is good for Meghan.

    • Sunshine says:

      Nah. He’s too busy in addition to being Depp’s lawyer, he’s also Harry’s lawyer for the phone hacking lawsuits. So relationship is fine.
      The new guy has more time to dedicate to her lawsuit as demonstrated by the fact that they now have dates in the diaries.

      • Amy Bee says:

        Yeah, this is not a new development. The “new” lawyer is part of Meghan’s legal team and represented her during the hearing in July on whether her friends could be named. Sherbourne is still part of the team just not the lead attorney. He made the written submission disputing Mail on Sunday’s claim that Meghan collaborated with Omid on his book.

      • Becks1 says:

        Yeah I figured he was part of her legal team based on how he just “stepped in” while the other lawyer was busy.

        to clarify – I’m a lawyer and I get how these things work. My “this is messy” comment was more about this whole lawsuit process and the MoS using it to sell papers, not the lawyer situation.

  2. truthSF says:

    This reminds me of when Jolie switched lawyers, and everyone was thinking ‘doom & gloom’ only for her new lawyer to end up being better than the (very shady) 1st lawyer!

    • Sierra says:

      In my opinion, once you lose that trust then I think a new lawyer is better for all.

      Jolie’s lawyer was definitely shady but I don’t know anything about Meghan’s.

  3. S808 says:

    After that interview with the IPSO chairman in The Times where he complained about H&M not handling this thru them I wonder if MOS is nervous about the potential financial loss. I think part of the strategy was to stall and financially stress H&M into a settlement but their pockets are deep now and they can afford this case being dragged out. I thought, on MOS’s side, this case would pay for itself since they’ve been reporting on it but I’m not so sure anymore.

  4. Sofia says:

    It’s quite possible that Meghan wants someone who’s a little less busy and is going to focus more on her case. There’s nothing wrong with that and it doesn’t mean Sherbourne is a terrible lawyer or that Meghan doesn’t like him anymore – she (like everyone else who goes to court) wants to win and wants someone with more time to dedicate to that.

  5. equality says:

    The Mail defense makes no sense to me. Authors publish their own material all the time but that doesn’t give other outlets the right to print it. So even if she did give Scobie access to publish the material, how would that give the Mail permission?

    • Belli says:

      It is worryingly close to “you gave them consent that means I also have consent.”

    • Becks1 says:

      I also don’t get it because Finding Freedom was released a year and a half after the MoS printed the letter. It would make sense that a biography – even a completely authorized one – would include the letter because that was a major development in Meghan’s royal life.

  6. Nic919 says:

    It’s pretty stark the difference in what Meghan has had to do to shut down the clear violation of the publication of her letter without her permission which is open and shut and then how Tatler caved into removing paragraphs that were clearly not libellous because Emily Andrews went and reprinted them all over again. DM should have settled out on the letter case months ago n

    • tolly says:

      This is really sad and telling. Tatler stated that they backed down to preserve their relationship with the royal family and keep things “amicable”, but the British press has shown over and over again that they are choosing to antagonize the Sussexes, especially Meghan. They refuse to show her the same courtesy that they do other royals, because they know that attacking her will not harm their relationship with the rest of the family. Leaving that situation was the only safe, sane option.

  7. Myra says:

    I imagine that since Meghan won her last court appearance against The Mail, they had to pay for her fees as well and if she wins overall, they will have to pay her fees (and vice versa).

    I see that they are trying to bring Omid Scobie into this for his book which seems like a really weak defense but maybe they’re going for the play that Meghan uses her friends as de facto PR. It’s still so weak though as all Meghan and her friends have to say is that Meghan never authorised them to talk to People or Scobie. And all Scobie has to say is that he never received any authorisation from Meghan or Harry, and neither did he interview them. It all seems like a circus on the side of The Mail.

    • Mignionette says:

      The burden of proof of showing that M&H collaborated on this book is so high that it’s almost laughable that they brought this up – lol
      RR’s followed M&H on all their tours and these books is how they round up their expenses to make money. There are SEVERAL of these books out there by RRs so to pin this book on M&H would prove problematic for a whole load of other Royals …. looking at you Charles, Camilla and Penny Junor….

      • K.T says:

        Mignionette: Thank you for this thorough overview from your perspective. Fascinating!
        Your perspective seems spot on, it’s really does feel like the ‘establishment’ versus the Sussex duo, and that includes the courts, most Brit media and the Royal firm. I’m glad they are out for now.

      • mynameispearl says:

        But those other royals aren’t suing the press, so whether they cooperated with books on themselves will never matter (apart from for the gossip factor).

  8. Mignionette says:

    As a UK (and US trained) Lawyer I’ve always felt that Meg & Harry were up against it pleading in a UK court, bc effectively those court’s are Harry’s grandmother’s courts and every lawyer who steps into them are first and foremost ‘officers of the court’. And as every officer of the court is aware your first responsibility is to HM and her courts.

    I have never felt comfortable with this action, not because I don’t think Team Sussex have a valid case to answer or cannot win, but rather because the odds are weighted against them in favour of the establishment.

    The best thing they ever did was place a body of water between them and the rest of those crusty clowns aka the British Royal Family. That was a necessity so as not to compromise their case, which we know William would have done given the opportunity. The leaks throughout 2018 and 2019 showed how utterly despicable Bill and Katie are.

    I still think Harry and Meghan are up against it. Personally I notice that the firms they have chosen to represent them are NOT the leading media / libel/ defamation firms and I suspect this is because they’ve been conflicted out of being represented by the better firms for various reasons. I also suspect (from speaking to media Lawyer friends) that team Sussex were seen as radioactive by the UK legal fraternity. They are literally trailblazers in this respect and as Harry alluded to this whole case is a HUGE risk. The BRF will do every thing in their power to make sure this case is compromised and possibly worse. They do not want these two to set this precedent and the UK media are right on that same page.

    If I were Harry and Meg I would hire super aggressive US lawyers with no vested outcome in knighthoods ect who will partner up with a niche independent UK media litigator (i.e. an outlier looking to make a name for themselves with a specialism in fighting for litigants against the media) and work closely with them. That would serve to put the UK media on notice that this is no longer a game of cat and mouse from which they can draw their column inches. This was eventually the strategy that Naomi Campbell used and it worked. Naomi Campbell is one of the few rich and powerful black women who has taken on the UK media and won. She literally destroyed a few media careers and almost brought Piers Morgan to his knees.

    This case was never about whether M&H have a good cause of action. That is clearly obvious, rather it is about going against the establishment. It’s about case strategy and that is why they had to move as Hugh Grant alluded in one of his interviews.

    As a Lawyer I watch this case from a different angle. This is truly one of those cases where the facts don’t really matter because on the facts alone H&M have already won. This is now about power and the future of the media and their relationship with these two Royals who are seeking to draw a line in the sand rather than being harassed and maligned for the rest of their lives.

    • Myra says:

      I feel the same way, too. Their case is strong, but the odds are stacked against them. I am proud of them for standing up, though. It’s not easy to be the only one in the room to stand up and say no. No, to all the abuse. I believe The Mail is fighting this because they don’t want other celebrities to follow the Harry and Meghan model. What if more people stood up to them.

      • Tealie says:

        I agree every single article they write is FILLED with libellous claims and leaks etc H&M winning would open up the floodgates which is why it’s such a risky case.

      • Beth says:

        Re Mignonette comment I’m sorry but I’m an English lawyer and that is rubbish. Your duties under the SRA are defined strictly to the Court but nowhere is that elevated to having to please HM. Your duties as an officer to the court are prescribed (please check the Code of Conduct) so anything contradictory to those principles is a breach. As you will no doubt be aware English lawyers have the renewal of their practicing certificates by end of October so perhaps refresh your memory. It’s irresponsible to be touting information in an authoritative way which simply is not true.

      • Mignionette says:

        @Beth whose courts are the English courts again ….? asking for a friend…. also your interpretation is deliberately literal you know exactly what I meant by those statements… there is too much to lose here for those who need to maintain status quo and the head of that totem pole is Lilibet herself.

        The point I was making is simple. H&M’s actions have been viewed as a near act of villainous treason by the establishment and the courts is just another place where they can be punished….

        Also for those who say that the BRF have no power over the press… let’s look at some recent case studies shall we….

        1. ABC and Prince Andrew
        2. UK Press and Prince Andrew
        3. UK Press and Meghan
        4. Charles via his former PR guru Mark Bolland
        5. The War of the Wales in which both Charles and Diana continually manipulated the media
        6. Team Cambridge with the help of FlyBe and the Daily Heil…

        The list is endless.
        In case people have not realised the UK has been hijacked by ‘one of the most right wing governments in history’ (quote courtesy of Ken Clarke former father of the house). Meghan’s politics were not appreciated and she was punished for it.

        And sorry not sorry even as a UK Lawyer I do not see her and Harry being treated fairly by the courts or the press as there is too much to loose for 6 powerful men who control uk media and ultimately steer the course of UK politics.

        This is bigger than Harry and Meghan. Winning this case would greatly upset the status quo. So the odds are stacked against them for that reason.

        Whilst we may have a number of rules in the UK which seeks to preserve the separation of powers, at a time when the UK seems on the precipice of increasing instability I do believe that the BRF have shown in recent years just how much power they have in influencing the media.

    • Yvette says:

      @Mignionette … Thank you so much for your insightful comment. I wish someone with an ‘in’ could share this with someone in Harry and Meghan’s camp.

      I became worried about the eventual outcome of this case when the Judge asigned to it began issuing stern finger-wagging public admonishments to Meghan about using the media to her advantage; while completely ignoring the British media’s use of an endless list of fact-finding questions, whose answers from the Duchess immediately appeared as headlines and feature articles. I wonder why that was never addressed when it was so obvious?

    • Sarah says:

      I am not sure that I agree with this comment in its totality. H&M are not going up against the BRF, they are going up against the media, so the idea that the entire system is biased against them because they left the BRF is, in my opinion, far-fetched. Being an “officer of the court” means that you must be honest with the court, it does not mean that you must do what the Queen tells you (even assuming that the Queen would want H&M to lose which I don’t think is the case because the rights H&M are trying to enforce are rights which protect the whole of the BRF’s privacy). As people have noted before, this claim is not hugely different to a similar claim brought by Prince Charles back in the day regarding his personal diary.

      The media is powerful – and has abused that power regularly and repeatedly. Unfortunately, exposure of their abuses (Leveson Inquiry) has to date not resulted in better behaviour. As I have noted before, the issue here is about defining what a “win” is. The media fought this case, even though they have a shaky position, because they thought they could profit from the process over and above the money it would cost them to fight it. I don’t know much about newspaper finances, but it is possible that the newspapers have got £3m worth of content from this and consider it a good deal. It’s a bit like an offshoot of the Streisand effect.

      Also, they absolutely were not radioactive – all the media firms I know would have (barring conflicts) jumped at the chance to take it! To note as well, as far as I know, none of the US firms operating in London do media/defamation work (despite the fees quoted above it’s actually much lower margin work) so that would have been a non-runner too.

      • Tealie says:

        Yes , but ultimately sarah both the media and the courts work for the BRF as we have seen through their caping for Andrew and the Meghan smear campaign.

    • Tealie says:

      @Sarah That worries me too, we’ve seen how much the royal family can interfere with court cases such as Charles managing to get Peter ball drops from a paedophilia sentence just threw a simple letter, lawyers in the UK and the courts ultimate Mottley pledge to the Queen so any whisper or threat from her could really fuck up there case

      • Sarah says:

        I fundamentally disagree with your comment that “the media and the courts” work for the BRF. They do not. I understand frustration about how H&M have been treated by the press, and separately by the BRF, but it is offensive to suggest as you do that the UK does not have an independent rule of law because it has a monarchy.

      • Mignionette says:

        Again my comments are being taken far too literally. The BRF are just a part of the fabric of upholding the status quo for a select few. That goes to the core of the principles on which the BRF and the Crown is built. The very survival of the BRF depends on also maintaining the status quo of the rich and powerful and in turn they scratch the BRF’s back. Isn’t that the whole basis of the peerage system and aristocracy ? The BRF know which side their bread is buttered hence why they allow the media to poke at and humiliate them every once in a while as part of the long standing soap opera for the masses to laugh at.

        The BRF actively feed the UK media by pointing out who the golden boys and girls are and who the villains are. Bill and Katie are protected i.e. references to love rivals and CEO stripped from articles in posh mags with low circulation figures. By contrast racist dog whistling articles accusing a biracial woman of visiting terrorist mosques are allowed on a daily basis because said biracial Duchess does not know how to tow the line and support her Tory party donors propped up by Oligarchs and the like.

        So yes the right hand feeds the left and vice versa.

        If I am honest I was aware of all this crap previously, but only really started to look into the intricate workings of it all when Meghan came on the scene. Meghan really gets on the tits of these Tories, Aristo’s and upper echelon types because she is exactly what they fear. A young person in a position of power with influence who espouses liberal ideals.

        So yes I do believe the UK establishment will take every opportunity to undermine and squash her.

        I work within the legal profession but I understand it’s limitations. For those who want to understand why I hold this level of skepticism, I suggest you read Barrister Secret’s book :
        “The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken” and
        “The Secret Barrister : The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies “.

        Also follow Hugh Grant on Twitter. His experiences were harrowing and follow to a tee what Barrister secret writes about in his books.

        If the UK legal system was the bastion is was held to be we wouldn’t have had so many reviews of the system and recommendations over the last decade. Currently the Tories are trying to do away with jury trials which you guessed it will affect the very poorest in society.

    • Nic919 says:

      I am an officer of the court in Canada and not once did they say that means that lawyers need to protect the Queen herself. It is about ensuring the integrity of the court process and dealing with the court and the parties in a fair manner. The judge doesn’t owe any allegiance to the Queen herself and the concept of the Crown is separate from the person who is the monarch. Accusing a judge of bias based on a few past clients is a pretty strong accusation to make.

      While I don’t disagree that the media establishment is siding against Harry and Meghan generally, it would take a court to overturn long established precedent for them not to win on the issue of the letter. The DM is simply playing games in the media and profiting from it.

      • marn112 says:

        @Nic 919 As a Canadian lawyer , I totally agree with your comments about the distinction of the Crown vs the Queen .I think though as a whole the lawsuit is risky and if it is found that MM and H were actively involved in the book or used friends to influence press and public opinion , they will lose a great deal in terms of their credibility .There is also the fact that the Court has already ordered costs against MM which is never a plus in any lawsuit .

  9. Noki says:

    OMG lawyer fees are absolute madness. I have watched enough legal shows such as Suits,The good life etc but i am still floored when i hear legal fees. Lawyers are paid hourly right(is that what billable hours refer too?). Are there flat rates or each lawyer/firm dreams up a figure based on what school and clientel they are associated with. If you keep a lawyer on retention thats cheaper correct?

    • Mignionette says:

      For a litigation action like this you pay by the hour (£500+ per hour for a ‘mid-level’ lawyer and much more for Counsel) with bills being settled periodically.

      For any court actions or counsel’s fees money is asked for up front due to the financial risks involved. A top silk (senior barrister) which I suspect H&M are using would cost in excess of 5k per day. An ex bf was a barrister at the commercial bar (Silk) mainly doing re-insurance cases and he easily doubled that figure for high profile clients a few years ago. Especially if they were headliners. The case prep and sacrifice that goes into those cases is truly something to behold.

    • Becks1 says:

      Some lawyers bill you by the hour, but that doesn’t mean that is what the lawyer gets paid. So you may have pay your lawyer 500/hour, but the lawyer isn’t getting 20k a week (for 40 hours, which is not what most US lawyers work.) That’s just how the law firm brings in money. Usually in a large firm, you pay a LOT more for a partner than an associate, and the more senior the partner and the more experienced, the more you pay.

      • Mignionette says:

        Correct the Firm is billing by the hour and usually solicitors like attorneys in the UK are paid a yearly salary and bonuses. Partners are co-owners so share the profits.

        Counsel (Barristers) are self employed so yes those are their earnings. They pay a portion into chambers (about 30%) and the rest is theirs. Commercial Barristers in the UK frequently earn millions as do some Partners of law firms.

  10. BnLurkN4eva says:

    Her case is good so I am so happy she’s sticking with it. I do know that both she and Harry are up against a machine of an opponent since I suspect that the entire UK system is compromised. This needs to be done no matter what even if only to demonstrate that the system is compromised. Those two are brave, truly and I hope they know that for all the trolls leaving vicious messages, there are many more people rooting for them.

  11. Lucylee says:

    I am pessimistic about M winning this case. That being said, I think the BM expected to make a fortune on pictures surrounding this trial with the possibility of M arriving/departing for court proceedings. COVID-19 means this most likely will be a ZOOM trial. That family retains their status because on the symbiotic relationship they have with the press. The government has the same type of relationship with the press. In a world that is moving towards equality for all I cannot understand how the concept of monarchy continues to exist.

  12. Sarah says:

    This isn’t a big deal. She hasn’t changed her solicitors (which would be a big deal), she has brought in a more senior barrister, that is all.

    For those in the US – we have a “split profession” with two different types of lawyers (barristers and solicitors). A solicitors firm will run the case and be the primary client contact, they will have responsibility for preparing evidence and managing the process of the litigation (including discovery etc). The barristers are advocates, and will represent the client in Court supported by the solicitors. It’s not quite as clear cut to say barristers are advocates and solicitors are not, since the barristers will be involved throughout the case and will prepare written submissions as well, but that is the essential division.

    Although you would normally try to keep the same barrister on a case, the new advocate is more senior. David Sherborne is a “Junior” barrister and has not been made a Queen’s Counsel (QC) yet. I am not at all surprised that she will be using a QC for the trial given the profile of the case and her resources. I also would not be at all surprised if David Sherborne is still involved, supported the QC, but not doing the advocacy. Frequently when a case is big enough to have a QC and Junior assisting, it might come about that the Junior does some interim hearings because the QC is likely to be more in demand/busy, with the QC coming in for the trial.

    Changing solicitors firm would be a bigger deal because they retain all the built up knowledge of the case, and have the client relationship so it would suggest a break down in trust in the case, or how it was being managed, to change at this late stage. A barrister will normally not go on “brief” until a month or two before the trial – ie will not start working full time on the case until that point. It makes sense that they would be making decisions about which barrister to use now.

  13. Mariane says:

    It’s just a strategic move. This lawsuit will not be the only lawsuit as squad members were saying on Twitter. Her win will help her to sue for defamation and argue that the paper ran a smearing campaign against her.

    I agree with you @kaiser the case is a open & shut case and mail thinks they can force her to drop it by dragging it. The idiots unknowingly unleashed a public intrest into how they operate and I think together with harry’s case it’ll probably end up in restrictions on media

  14. aquarius64 says:

    I think the Fail is panicking. Using Omid Scobie and Finding Freedom as evidence of collaboration and consent to release private information to the public is a stretch. Sounds like DM is having trouble proving Meghan told her friends to talk to People. Court date is Jan 11 and time is running out. For IPSO to weigh in means the case is strong; and if Bad Dad is compelled to testify and explain the redacted parts of the letter that apparently make him look bad – game over.

  15. L4frimaire says:

    This guy is on the same team as her previous lawyer and won the round with the five friends anonymity, so good job Schillings, especially if this guy is mote effective and could focus more on Meghan’s case. Interesting how IPSO commented on the case while claiming that Meghan could have filed a complaint to them, as if they’d do anything. Now they’re bringing up the Finding Freedom book as a way to justify printing her letter. This is ridiculous.

    • Mignionette says:

      IPSO are toothless clowns. M&H have previously complained to them. IPSO are annoyed because they’re being treated like the WHO i.e. they’re supposed to be seen as a leading authority but no one really respects them or goes to them for real binding redress.

  16. Marivic says:

    If the UK courts, under the Queen, are not that powerful, how else can you explain the Tatler’s retraction about the Catherine The Great story? Tatler just pulled out all stories Kate thinks defamed her reputation and left all the lies about Meghan. Tatler initially stood by that story but was threatened by the BRF with a lawsuit. The BRF intimidated that magazine and it flipped and was cowed to submission. It is not far-fetched that Meghan wouldn’t get justice from the UK courts.

    • Sarah says:

      It is far fetched. To be honest half this thread reads like crazy conspiracy theories when it comes to the influence of the BRF on the UK Courts. All the lawyers on this thread have said so.

      It is also different from the relationship between the BRF and the press. They can be cowed sometimes because they think they will get sued (and the BRF has sued numerous times in the past) or they are cowed because they want continued access/leaks. It is a fundamentally different relationship to that between the BRF and the courts. There is no quid pro quo there.