Speaking at a pre-trial hearing at the High Court in London on Thursday, Judge Mr. Justice Warby agreed to postpone the trial — which was scheduled to start on Jan. 11 — until no sooner than October 15, 2021.
Warby added that his ruling was based on "confidential grounds" submitted by Meghan's legal team during a closed hearing on Thursday morning.
"My conclusion is that the right decision in all the circumstances is to grant the application," Warby said. "That means that the trial date of January 11, 2021, will be vacated and the trial will be refixed for a new date in the autumn."
"Hearings in private are an exception. It was necessary to hear that part of the evidence in private as a way to protect privacy and the administration of justice," he added.
Meghan, 39, is suing the Mail on Sunday’s publishers Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy, infringement of data protection rights and copyright infringement for printing extracts of a “private and confidential” letter sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018 — three months after her wedding to Prince Harry.
Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
In a second application on Thursday, lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex sought to overturn a key aspect of Associated Newspaper's defense, based on a September 29 ruling that aspects of the biography Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family could be used as evidence in the lawsuit.
In this instance, Justice Warby found in favor of Associated Newspapers on the grounds that the information in the biography was "relevant" to the proceedings.
“If there is a trial she (Markle) will have the benefit of the evidence of one of the authors at least," added Justice Warby. "She will (also) be able to give evidence herself.”
On Thursday, Meghan's legal team also applied for the whole case to be decided by a judge, rather than via a full trial — a legal proceeding known as a summary judgement in the U.K.
The Queen's Commonwealth Trust Meghan Markle and Prince Harry take part in a Zoom call from their new home in Santa Barbara
This is largely to prevent Meghan from having to go up against her own father in a London courtroom. Other witnesses, possibly including some of her close friends, could also be called upon to give evidence.
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Justice Warby ruled that he wasn't in a position to make a decision on this application, because the paperwork had only recently been submitted by her attorneys.
He later set a date for the summary judgment application to be heard in court from January 12-13th.