The man alleges the Judge intimidated a lawyer and acted in an outrageous manner when wrongly jailing him for 12 months, according to court documents.
It marks the second active case against the Judge. Both of which arise from separate contempt of court charges arising during routine civil cases.
A controversial judge
Judge Vasta has not been without controversy. He wrongly ordered a female same-sex couple to baptise their child. He also cross-examined a father so unfairly – and with such “open hostility” – that his estranged wife even backed his appeal.
Judge Vasta allegedly told a lawyer friend that the reason he was getting a hard time from appeal judges wasn’t because of his work.
“It’s those Labor Party judges. They’re out to get me,” a friend told The Guardian.
Judge Vasta comes from a prominent family in Queensland. His mother is a well-regarded magistrate, his brother the federal MP for the Brisbane seat of Bonner and his father the only judge ever dismissed from office on a vote of Parliament.
12 months jail for contempt
The latest case comes after he jailed a man for contempt in a decision the Family Court described as “an affront to justice”.
The man is a Queensland tourism operator who was before the court on an underpayment case, launched the proceedings earlier this year. We cannot identify him for legal reasons.
Vasta believed the man had breached freezing orders. He found him in contempt of court and sentenced him to 12 months jail.
The man spent two days in custody before the full bench of the Federal Court found the trial for contempt had “substantially miscarried for at least four reasons”. This included the “primary judge’s excessive, unwarranted and inappropriate interventions”.
Suing Judge despite Judicial Immunity
The Federal Court described Vasta’s behaviour in the case as follows:
“an egregious departure from the role of a judge presiding over an adversarial trial”.
This meant his capacity to “objectively evaluate the evidence was fundamentally compromised”.
It described his approach as “sarcastic, disparaging and dismissive of significant parts of (the man)’s evidence”. Additionally it said his questioning was “aggressive and, at times, unfair”.
The man is suing Judge Vasta for false imprisonment, alleging that Vasta should not get the usual judicial immunity.
Judicial immunity protects judges from lawsuits. However in this case, the man alleged that the judge acted without jurisdiction or exceeded his jurisdiction. By doing so he shouldn’t be afforded the immunity.
He is also suing the Commonwealth, saying it is liable for the actions of court security, which restrained his liberty without lawful authority.
“The Commonwealth is vicariously liable to (the man) for the false imprisonment committed by the court security officers,” the statement of claim alleges.
The case also alleges the Queensland Government is liable for the actions of Queensland police and correctional officers who are alleged to have imprisoned the man without lawful authority.
No defence has yet been filed. Vasta declined to comment when approached by the Guardian.
Vasta is expected to file a defence on 20 October.