What to Expect When Meghan Markle’s Tabloid Trial Begins on Friday

Last October, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were on a royal tour in southern Africa, they made an announcement that has continued to rock the relationship between the royal family and the British media that covers them. Meghan had filed a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday and its parent company, Associated Newspapers, and Harry wrote a scathing statement about the action and his feelings about press coverage in general. Since then, Meghan and Harry have made their royal exit—and the world has changed in major ways—but the case is still moving forward. On Friday morning both parties will appear—virtually—in front of a judge for the first time. Here’s what to expect.

The Complaint

At the heart of the complaint is a letter that Meghan wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018, after he declined to attend their wedding. In the run-up to the ceremony that May, her father participated in a tabloid photoshoot and subsequently was hospitalized for heart problems. In the letter, Meghan wrote that she was upset that her father had chosen to work with the press and hadn’t returned her calls. The Mail on Sunday later got ahold of the letter, presumably from Thomas, sometime in the following months. In February, the tabloid published excerpts of Meghan’s letter, including snippets of a scanned image.

In October, Meghan sued the tabloid’s parent company, Associated Newspapers, for misuse of private information, copyright infringement, and breach of the Data Protection Act of 2018.

What to Expect on Friday

On Friday, lawyers for both Meghan and Associated Newspapers will call into a remote preliminary hearing ahead of a full trial. The hearing is set to begin in the early morning hours Los Angeles time, but it is unclear if Meghan will participate. According to the Press Gazette, Associated Newspapers is looking to strike some aspects of the duchess’s initial complaint. So far, the company’s specific requests have not been made public, but the documents filed by both parties over the last few months might give us some insight into how things will proceed.

In January, Associated Newspapers filed a brief claiming that Meghan’s letter to her father should not be treated as a private document. “It is denied that the publication of the words complained of constituted a misuse of the claimant’s private information, or a breach of the claimant’s GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] rights, or an infringement of the claimant’s copyright in the letter, as alleged or at all,” it said, according to excerpts of the documents first published by The Telegraph in January. “The contents of the letter were not private or confidential, self-evidently or at all.” The company claims that the clean handwriting and carefully worded nature of the letter implies the duchess intended for the letter to become public someday.

In response, Meghan’s lawyers said it was clearly a private document because it details “her intimate thoughts and feelings about her father’s health and her relationship with him at that time,” according to the Sun. The response added that the Mail on Sunday “chose to deliberately omit or suppress” and “intentionally distorted or manipulated” parts of the letter.

The handwriting issue is an unusual one. For years, Meghan has written letters that feature her clean, practically Victorian handwriting, and when she was a fledgling actor, she used to supplement her income by taking on freelance calligraphy jobs. It’s too soon to tell if this history will come up in her court case.

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