I have noted previously that Jacqueline Sperling tried (and continues to try) to ruin the life of lawyer Madeleine Flannagan, for having the temerity to request she stop harassing and defaming in her spare time.
Back in May, Sperling wrote this in one of her posts just before the court hearing (which she did not attend):
Twice in the past week i have attempted to settle this. I have offered to remove anything from my blog that these women took offence to – not because i believe i did anything wrong – but because i do not have the time or energy to waste on this.
I have come to the point where my right to free speech and expression comes after keeping my family safe, my relationship happy, and my success with my studies.
I think the fact that there has been no agreement reached even after me making that offer shows the level of vindictiveness that i am dealing with. This is not about anything i said being true or untrue. This is not about their reputations or mine.
This is about [Ms] Brown’s inherent desire to hurt and destroy anyone who she feels has rejected her. She doesn’t care how nuts she makes everyone look – including her friends – in the process.
It won’t work.
Even if i lose on the 31st – i will abide by any court order – and move on with my life with a smile on my face. I have survived far worse than this – and i will survive this.
Everything will still be Wonderful Now.
So she claims:
- to have tried to settle not once, but twice
- that she offered to remove anything from her blog that her victims took offence to
- that there has been no agreement shows “the level of vindictiveness that i am dealing with”
- “this is not about anything”… “being true or untrue”
- this is not about reputations
- She will abide by any court order
She has quoted this claim (that she’s tried to settle) several times. It’s a big part of The Narrative that she is a nice person who was driven by despair to disregard her rights and throw herself at the mercy of these “crazy lawyers” and offer a settlement that they then refused.
Well, that’s her story – what’s the other side?
First, let me clarify something. Because of the public interest in the case, many of the affidavits in the case have been made public through Madeleine Flannagan’s lawyer. The material below is mainly from the parts of those affidavits that deal with the settlement issue but I also included some of the other parts just to be more complete.
Unlike Sperling’s story, I will attempt to give as full account as possible. I place two restrictions on this however:
1. I’m going to try and respect Sperling’s desire not to name her partner, who acted as her representative in these negotiations.
2. I’m going to try and respect, to the extent I can, the privacy of Sperling’s victims. Some of the below is edited, not because the details are not public (they are in many cases easily found), but because I don’t like repeating them just to prove that Sperling repeated them. Sperling was very eager to tell the world about what certain people in this matter had done. My focus here is Sperling and her behaviour.
In addition, I’ve snipped some things just to reduce the amount of reading. As always, these are denoted by an ellipsis (…) or by [snip] as is my usual habit. These are legal documents, and go into the nth detail much of which is not necessary to make my point here.
Oh, and unlike Sperling’s tale – this one has some objective and provable facts. Facts that were presented to the court, by people who had something to lose if they were found to be liars. Many of these facts are Sperling’s own statements, made in public.
The document I am quoting is called ” UPDATING AFFIDAVIT OF MADELEINE […]FLANNAGAN IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION FOR RESTRAINING ORDER 30 May 2012″. I will also be quoting from a document containing Exhibits C-G where necessary – mainly part 2.
First, some administration matters are covered.
I, MADELEINE […]FLANNAGAN, Barrister and Solicitor of Auckland, swear as follows:
1. I am the Second Applicant in these proceedings.
2. The purpose of this affidavit is to update the Court as to additional relevant evidence that has recently arisen.
3. This document is filed imminently of the hearing so as to ensure the court has a little time to consider the most recent developments rather than them submitted by way of evidence in chief since the Respondent has indicated she does not intend to be present at the hearing.
Second, she deals with the fact that Sperling continued to post material, even in the face of the approaching court date.
4. The Respondent JACQUELINE SPERLING (“Ms Sperling”) continues to publish offensive material about me on her blog Wonderful Now that I consider to be specific acts of harassment.
5. There are now 20 pages on Wonderful Now that make reference to me either in the text of the blog posts or in the comments beneath; 5 of these pages are not before the court but are relevant to these
proceedings. I annex these pages as Exhibit “A.”
6. Ms Sperling has also published similar offensive material in the comments section at least two other blogs; these are [redacted – I see no need to embarrass a blogger who eventually realised the right thing], and “The Standard”.
7. The owner of [redacted] has deleted the entire page containing comments referring to me and this proceeding now.[redacted]
8. The material on The Standard remains online; I annex the page …
And on to the Settlement saga.
9. During the past week some attempts at settling this matter have been made. Normally the correspondence and fact of these attempts would be subject to privilege and I would not refer to them in an affidavit.
10. In this instance I believe that Ms Sperling waived privilege by way of implied action; she blogged about these settlement attempts and published selective scans and photographs of the communications so that any member of the public who visits her blog can read them; see pages of Exhibit “A”. In doing so she alleged that I had harassed her.
11. I now waive my right to privilege in this regard so that the context can be shown. Counsel for the First Applicant has informed me that she too waives privilege in this regard. I annex the correspondence confirming this as Exhibit “C”.
12. On 21 May 2012 11.24am Ms Sperling’s partner [redacted] sent the email annexed to this affidavit in Exhibit “D” to my then Counsel to suggest settlement by way of undertakings for all parties to not to harass each other and the removal of offending material from Ms Sperling’s blog. Mr [redacted]wrote:
“I have discussed the option of reaching a settlement of proceedings with Jackie.
In order to resolve this matter in an amicable way, and avoid further conflict between the parties, Jackie is prepared to remove all posts from her blog which name your clients. In addition, she will remove everything on the blog which refers to the District Court proceedings between the parties.
This would be done on the basis that your clients withdraw the applications filed under the Harassment Act, and that the parties will all undertake in writing not to engage in any behaviour that would constitute harassment against the other.”
The full email is included in exhibit “D”. Nothing else in it – and at this point I suspect everyone is all agreed so I won’t bother posting a screenshot.
13. While I categorically reject the notion that I have engaged in harassment of Ms Sperling, and I do not accept that the First Applicant has either, I was prepared to consider settling.
Sperling’s idea that she was/is being harassed fall into two categories: a) this lawsuit and b) someone visiting her blog and sometimes leaving nasty comments. This nasty person isn’t Ms Brown, but Sperling is (in public anyway) sticking to the story that she’s being harassed.
Yes you read that right – someone is harassing her by reading her blog.
14. I raised the concern with my Counsel that an undertaking was not adequate in my mind given Ms Sperling’s conduct since being served.
Basically, Sperling offered to voluntarily restrain herself (an “Undertaking”). This has no clout, obviously and given Sperling is in breach of another, actual restraining order, only a fool would consider this to be worth anything.
This has consisted of her increasing her output of offensive material about the First Applicant, this proceeding, our Counsel and myself – she has even published scans of our affidavits, see Exhibit “E”, Exhibit “F” and Exhibit “G” of the 15 May 2012 affidavit of [Ms] BROWN, and the judgment of Sinclair J of 25 May 2012, see page 7 of Exhibit “A”, in breach of District Court Rules 3.18.2 and 3.18.3. She has been publishing references to the Family Court Proceeding in breach of sllB(3)(ii) Family Courts Act 1980 since March 2012 and has been ignored requests to take them down and to desist. If she could not show respect for the judicial process and the law, then what hope did we have of her respecting an undertaking?
Quick version: No sane person would trust someone who is doing her best to show as much contempt for the courts as she can.
15. I said I would agree to a restraining order by consent memorandum. I also wanted a retraction given the reach of the material and Ms Sperling’s by then prolific publication.
Madeleine asked for a “restraining order by consent memorandum” – which is basically agreeing to a restraining order that has the same power as if a court had placed it.
16. The First Applicant discussed her views and concerns with me and showed me that there were still blog posts referring to [another matter] visible in her blog feed, which I understand to be likely to be in breach of his restraining order against her. We were agreed in our lack of confidence in Ms Sperling to adhere to an undertaking. We resolved to have our Counsel advise that we were open in principle to settling but to indicate that the terms proposed were likely to be in need of negotiation. Our Counsel sent the following email on 24 May 20128.05am:
“My clients are open to negotiation in principle, and have considered the matter carefully. It is of concern that the matter from the last proceedings faced by Ms Sperling are still accessible despite Court orders, but as stated, [Ms Brown]and Madeleine are considering the matter, and I hope for a final answer today.”
Madeleine and Ms Brown replied that they might be interested, but they had to consider carefully how to approach the matter since Sperling doesn’t exactly make a habit of keeping her obligations.
17. We had agreed to meet that evening after work and work out precisely what terms to put forward. By that evening Ms Sperling had published the following on The Standard, see page 1 of Exhibit “B” in response to a comment made by someone else that linked to her blog post “One more thing before i go” at 3.44p m on 24 May 12:
“The woman in question is not taking me to court for defamationfor the simple reason that every thing I have stated is true.
Woman in question is taking me to court after 18 months of putting up with her harassment of me after I [redacted]“
That’s one. And I’m going to redact much of these for the reasons outlined above.
As an aside, pretty much none of that comment is true. Note the first paragraph though – Sperling always lays the irony on thick.
18. Then at 3.52pm on 24 May 12 Ms Sperling wrote in the comments beneath “One more thing before i go”, see Exhibit “Au of the affidavit of [Ms] BROWN of 24 May 2012:
How about you take your judgemental attitude regarding me defending myself against dishonest litigation and point it in the direction of the psychotic home wrecker and the adulterer that have caused so much grief in my life for the past 18 months [redacted]
That would be swell.”
19. Then at 4.06pm on 24 May 12 Ms Sperling commented on “The Standard”, see page 1 of Exhibit “B”:
“It is a fact.
Don’t ask me why. I am not an unfaithful married man. How would i know why men do these things.
And note the (as always thick) irony that when Sperling says “I am not an unfaithful married man”. All that means is that she is not a man. She is quite open about the fact she was and continues to be unfaithful to her own husband.
20. At S.02pm on 24 May 2012 Ms Sperling commented on “One more thing before i go”, see Exhibit “A” of the affidavit of [Ms] BROWN of 24 May 2012: [redacted content of the comment]
21. At 5.16pm on 24 May 2012 Ms Sperling posted on “The Standard”, see page 2 of Exhibit “B”:
“18 months of electronic proof.
Don’t even go there …. I have proof coming out my ears.”
Six, and as always, she is not even close to telling a straight statement. Her “proof” either didn’t make it to court, or it was thrown out as ridiculous by the judge – I honestly can’t recall which.
22. At S.28pm on 24 May 2012 Ms Sperling posted on ”The Standard”, see page 3 of Exhibit “B”:[redacted content of the comment]
23. At 5.41pm on 24 May 2012 Ms Sperling posted on “The Standard”, see page 3 of Exhibit “B”:
“The HOS article was about Laws.
That suited [Ms] Brown’s agenda and was just aother in a long line of examples of her harassment of me.
None of this is about Laws though and that is why I have blogged the truth.”
Eight. And get that the media writing a story drawn entirely from her blogging is Ms Brown conducting an act of harassment. Recall that it was Sperling who put this in the public domain, and has blogged obsessively about it. Any media attention is 100% her own fault.
Anyway, what’s relevant is not what she said (though it’s almost entirely a lie), but that she said it. The above documents no less than eight statements attacking Ms Brown and Madeleine Flannagan (and others) – at a time she was asking them to:
a) negotiate a settlement with her
b) trust her to be self restrained as part of that settlement
Clearly, this casts severe doubt on whether she made the offer in good faith. This, after her credibility was almost non-existent in the first place.
24. When the First Applicant and I got home from work and swapped notes the feeling was mutual. We did not feel that Ms Sperling had offered to settle in good faith and we wondered how serious she could possibly be to have spent the afternoon ensuring the material she knew we considered defamatory and to be specific acts of harassment was visible on a blog with a huge readership.
This is key. You may not trust me that the above eight statements are wall-to-wall lies. It’s even possible that Sperling herself thinks they are true.
But there is no way that Sperling thought that the above statements would be treated as harmless by those where were taking her to court. She knew that they considered (or would consider) them to be defamatory and acts of harassment. Especially since she considers visiting her blog to be harassment.
So having tentatively agreed to negotiate, they sat down to agree to their opening negotiation position and discovered that Sperling had been posting material with the apparent intent of making sure the damage was maximised.
25. Our discussion shifted from trying to work out what settlement terms we could live with to should we settle at all? We resolved to give it one more day before we made a decision; maybe Ms Sperling had not seen our counsel’s email straight away.
Fairly obviously, whether Sperling was genuine at this point was all but beyond debate. But they thought they would wait and see on the charitable (and highly dubious) assumption that Sperling may not have got the message that she was supposed to be showing that she was willing to settle.
Well, you’ll never go wrong banking on Sperling acting in bad faith it seems.
26. At 7.41am on 25 May 2012 Ms Sperling posted on “The Standard”, see page 4 of Exhibit “B”:
“Felix – I don’t want anything to do with them. I tried to end my “friendship” with [Ms] Brown [snip] and for that I have received 18 months worth of herattention and stalking me.
When it got to the point that she served me with legal papers that are full of lies because she has a free lawyer and she knows i don’t – and can’t afford one – [redacted rest of comment]
It’s been pointed out before that Sperling was in fact perfectly entitled to legal aid, so she was perfectly able to afford one – even before her sob story on her blog generated spontaneous offers of donations to cover legal costs which she rejected.
27. At 8.55am on 25 May 2012 Ms Sperling posted on “The Standard”, see page 4 of Exhibit “B”:
“Thanks Te Reo.
Like i said to the editor of the HOS – i have survived worse than this, and i will survive this latest drama.
And yes -i digress – mentally ill right wingers should be avoided at all cost. [redacted]
Nine and Ten.
28. Then at 10.48 am Ms Sperling published a new blog post entitled “This woman is nuts”. This post attacked me for writing to the owner of [previously redacted] and asking him to remove some of the comments on his blog. It contained a copy of the letter I had sent him and a url to the blog post and comments I objected to.
Weirdly (or not) the post is still online, even as Sperling still claims that she was pursuing a settlement during that time period.
29. It went on to accuse me of being a hypocrite by citing a screenshot and a section of an online video of me giving a public lecture at the University of Auckland on Freedom of Religion. The lecture was part of an official university event “Jesus Week”. It had been organised in conjunction with several Christian student groups and the Auckland University Students Association. It had been moderated by a then Newstalk ZB talkback show host; further, the name of the Ministry I do volunteer work for, Thinking Matters, is visible on Ms Sperling’s blog.
None of these people, institutions or organisations deserve to be implicated. This post can be seen at page 4 of Exhibit “A”.
Outside this being no. eleven, this one is really blatant. While she might have thought commenting on The Standard might not be noticed, writing a post with a toxic title on her own blog could leave no doubt whatsoever that she was acting in bad faith. Not only has she attacked the people she was supposed to be settling with at the time, but the post actually was making a hamfisted attempt to use her victim’s words to justfy her actions.
Not only that, but the post attacked her victims for politely requesting something that she herself was claiming to be offering. Recall her statement quoted at the start of this post: “I have offered to remove anything from my blog that these women took offence to“. Yet here she is attacking them for making that same request to someone else.
No reasonable person would consider these actions to be the actions of someone genuinely wanting to settle.
30. The First Applicant and I spoke by telephone; we both agreed that there was no point trying to engage in settlement discussions given Ms Sperling’s conduct.
31. At 11.17am our Counsel emailed [redacted], see p1 of Exhibit “D”:
“Given the recent blogs elsewhere on the internet, my clients cannot accept that Ms Sperling can or will act in good faith in this matter. As such, they wish for the protection of a Judicial decision and an Order of Court, including but not limited to all legal costs and damages to them personally.
I am sorry that agreement could not be reached, and I appreciate your goodwill in this matter.”
But Madeleine decided to see if she could reach a settlement herself – that is, without Ms Brown.
The affidavit then relates how this went. I’m sure it’ll come as a complete shock to my readers to discover that this didn’t go well.
But that’s part 2.
This post is about Jacqueline (Jackie) Sperling, and is part of an ongoing series discussing her ongoing campaign of harassment and lies against lawyer Madeleine Flannagan, lawyer Simon Buckingham, and Ms Brown (her original target for harassment), as well as The Narrative – the alternate reality she presents on her blog in which she pretends to be the victim of her targets. You can read a court decision that outlines her campaign and the court’s assessment of The Narrative here. Please do not place abusive comments on her blog, phone her, or approach her or her family as she will blame this on her victims.