A former NSW state Greens MP and chief-of-staff to federal leader Richard Di Natale is taking the NSW branch of the party to court in the wake of a faltering preselection bid.

Cate Faehrmann, who until last week continued to work in Di Natale’s office, began proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The matter came before a duty judge and affidavits and a summons have been filed, though no documents from the case are publicly available at this stage of proceedings.

While the exact details of the legal action are yet to be confirmed, they come on the back of a bid by Faehrmann to return to the NSW Parliament after departing in 2013 in order to run for the federal Senate.

After Faehrmann failed to win a spot in the federal parliament she moved to Di Natale’s office in Victoria in 2015.

Then, in January 2018, Faehrmann confirmed she would move back to NSW in order to contest preselection for the upper-house state spot left vacant by the upcoming departure of Mehreen Faruqi in order to run for a federal senate seat.

Faehrmann’s plans were foiled by a rule that requires new members to be granted provisional status for the first three months from the date they sign up and that those with provisional memberships not be allowed to contest in pre-selection.

Despite the fact Faehrmann had previously served for three years as a Greens MP in NSW, her membership transfer from Victoria back to NSW was judged to mean she would be regarded as provisional for three months.

With state preselection set down for late March and early April, Faehrmann will not be able to contest the vote unless her membership status is changed.

Crikey understands there have been various efforts to change the membership status, though none have yet succeeded.

In February, lawyers representing Faehrmann sent a letter to the NSW Greens convenor, arguing that a proper reading of the party’s federal constitution meant their client should be considered a full member already. The letter foreshadowed legal action if the issue was not resolved.

“In circumstances where the denial of membership rights might operate to prevent a transferring member form being eligible to nominate for pre-selection, as is the case with Ms Faehrmann, the issue of construction become vitally important and one which may need to be resolved in the Supreme Court,” it said.

The letter added that if the provisional status of Faehrmann’s membership was not reconsidered, an urgent judicial ruling would be sought.

A listing on the NSW Supreme Court’s website names Alex Van Vucht, the membership officer of the Greens NSW, as the respondent to the case.

A senior NSW Greens source told Crikey the court case related to the issue of provisional membership.

The proceedings come as intense infighting continue in the NSW Greens. On top of contesting the position left vacant by Faruqi, the party will also have to choose its upper-house ticket for the next state election, a contest that will pit fierce rivals David Shoebridge and Jeremy Buckingham against each other.

Crikey has approached both the NSW Greens and Ms Faehrmann for comment.

Peter Fray

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