Article weight-shamed me: Mehajer lawyer

Lawyer Zali Burrows says a Sydney Morning Herald article 'irreparably harmed' her reputation.
Lawyer Zali Burrows says a Sydney Morning Herald article 'irreparably harmed' her reputation.

In a claim describing Salim Mehajer as one of Australia's most disliked people, a high-profile defence lawyer says a Sydney gossip column made out she sleeps with clients and unfairly exposed her to ridicule for her manner of dress and weight.

The May 2019 article featuring a picture of Mr Mehajer and lawyer Zali Burrows outside a jail carried six defamatory meanings including that she was a ridiculous lawyer, documents filed in the Federal Court this week claim.

The Sydney Morning Herald article titled "Headline-grabbing solicitor stands by her 60 Minutes' man" describes Ms Burrows as a "diminutive blonde by (Mr Mehajer's) side who has been raising eyebrows within Sydney's legal fraternity".

Ms Burrows says that opening line made out she "is false to her oath as a solicitor because she allows herself to be romantically involved with her clients".

The article also carried the meaning that Ms Burrows has justifiably exposed herself to ridicule "by reason of her excessive weight (and) her manner of dress", the statement of claim states.

Listing a series of "notorious facts" readers would have been aware of, she describes Mr Mehajer as a high-profile criminal who has received "unprecedented and adverse media attention".

"Salim Mehajer is arguably one of the most disliked persons in Australia that evokes a negative reaction from both the public at large and commentators," Ms Burrows' claim reads.

The property developer and former Auburn deputy mayor came to national attention in 2015 after he illegally shut down a western Sydney street for his extravagant wedding.

He's since been jailed for electoral fraud and assault and was in March 2018 declared bankrupt, owing $25 million.

Other notorious facts were that Ms Burrows was a "high-profile solicitor (who) has represented numerous high-profile criminal clients" and that the Private Sydney gossip column usually publishes about "scandal, bad behaviour and the sex lives of high-profile celebrities and actors".

She's claiming special damages, arguing the article "irreparably harmed" her reputation as a solicitor "such that she is likely to be shunned by potential clients in the future".

"The applicant will suffer economic loss by reason of the publication of the matters complained of," the claim states.

Ms Burrows, whose high-profile clients have included terrorist Bassam Hamzy and terrorist recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi, says the article has been used by another person to "harass, embarrass, menace and ridicule (her) with".

"Numerous emails were sent by the person addressed to the Law Society and other journalists referencing (the May 2019 article), accusing the applicant of unethical conduct on the basis of (the article)."

Nine Entertainment, the owner of Fairfax Media, has not yet filed a defence and declined to comment.

Ms Burrows told AAP on Wednesday she would add a further article and Facebook posts to her claim next week.

The case is not yet listed before a judge.

Australian Associated Press