The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments on Tuesday from the people Conrad Black has accused of libelling him.
The former media mogul is trying to sue members of a special committee at Hollinger International, the defunct publishing empire he once presided over, for allegedly libelling him in comments they made in a report in 2004 that suggested he absconded with hundreds of millions worth of company funds.
The defendants say an Ontario court has no jurisdiction in the case since they are almost all American. However, at least two lower Canadian courts have already ruled the province is the right jurisdiction for Black to sue about the statements.
The accused have appealed all the way to Canada’s top court.
Although most of the people he says libelled him are American, the Montreal-born Black wants to sue in Canada in part because that’s where he says his reputation has been harmed. He’s seeking roughly $1 billion in damages.
The central figure in the suit is Richard Breeden, a former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who was closely involved in the case that first saw Black convicted on multiple fraud charges in 2007.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago recently overturned some of Black’s fraud convictions, but one remains in place, along with a single count of obstruction of justice.
The complete list of people Black says have libelled him is a veritable Who’s Who of notables, including former U.S. ambassadors Richard Burt and Raymond Seitz, and Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state. All were members of Hollinger’s board of directors in some form or another.
The case may set an interesting precedent in future libel cases in that the statements Black objects to were printed not only on the website of The Chicago Sun-Times, a daily he once owned, but also widely reprinted by numerous Canadian media outlets.