Possibility Two: Court Ordered Silence

Rowling was ordered by a court to desist from social media posting during the trial’s final phases — and found that she liked it.

Last November I wrote a post about Rowling, Inc., taking one of Rowling’s Personal Assistants to court for “gross misconduct” and to sue for compensation to the tune of $25,000 in supposedly inappropriate and not-approved purchases as well as straight forward theft. ‘Lethal White: Personal Assistant Drama’ spells out what seemed to be an open and shut case at the time, the horrific optics of a billionaire claiming “Financial injury” and “Suffering” from what amounts to pocket change, and the echoes of this affair in the Cormoran Strike novels.

The case has been resolved and, in it, we may have an explanation for why Rowling went silent on Twitter in January. Here are links to various stories posted online about the trial and verdict:

Giving evidence at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Ms Donaldson said the author “could be really generous” and bought her a replacement pushchair when her child’s original was damaged.

But she claimed she was never given specific instructions for the use of the company credit card. Ms Donaldson said Ms Rowling was often “busy writing and you had to respect that”.

She added: “Approachable isn’t something I would say. People in the office would sometimes ask if she was in a good mood, in a terrified way.”

“You wouldn’t want to upset her but she was generous.” 

  • We do get an explanation, though, about Rowling’s claim that she only sued in order to protect the reputations of other employees. Apparently, the PA blamed them for the missing cash.
  • The PA’s story is not incrediblein fact, the judge seems to have believed she didn’t take any objects.

“The defender has wholly denied any intention to deceive the pursuer. Her position has always been that she was authorised to use the card in the way in which she did and she did not set out to deceive the pursuer, or for the pursuer to suffer any loss at the hands of her action.”

Ms Turley said the purchases at Starbucks and Costa were made over a three-year period and were for either Ms Rowling herself or for business meetings, while she also believed she was authorised to buy herself a coffee if she was out on a business errand for a long time.

She told the court the purchases at Molton Brown were for use in the business premises and that Ms Donaldson “used her initiative and took on the role of buying these items for the business”.

Ms Donaldson also believed purchases from Paper Tiger and other retailers were authorised, Ms Turley said. The lawyer told the court her client denies removing the Harry Potter merchandise and also denies the other claims against her.

In sum, the PA was found guilty and has to repay Rowling-Murray (the author sued under her married name of Joanne Murray) 19,000 pounds or just over $25,000 US. I think my November thoughts are still relevant; even gazillionaires have the right not to suffer thieves, the optics of destroying this young woman’s life for what amounts to an afternoon’s interest on The Presence’s dragon hoarde of gold are necessarily horrible, and the take-away for serious readers beyond flinching at a favorite author’s vindictiveness is only the echoes we see of this real life drama in the Cormoran Strike novels (Robin plays a conniving PA in Lethal White and may go undercover again as one in Strike5).

In conversation about the court case last April with a friend in the UK who-shall-not-be-named, I learned that it is not unusual for Sherrifs (judges!) in cases with high profile litigants to instruct defendants and prosecutors to forego commentary, even activity on social media as the case entered its final stages and during sentencing. Might this be the reason for Rowling’s silence on Twitter after 10 January?

A court ordered silence makes more sense, frankly, than the personal reasons listed yesterday. As mentioned in that post, ‘Possibility One: Personal Reasons,’ illness, addiction, or relationship problems might explain Rowling’s withdrawing from active tweeting. It wouldn’t explain why her staff of four full time assistants and two part timers couldn’t retweet announcements from Lumos, Cursed Child, Bronte Studios, Hachette publishers, or Warner Brothers.

A court ordered silence would explain that. The mystery if this is the case becomes instead why she would persist in full abstinence from the venue — on her home page at least (I’m told she made replies to twitter messages but have not seen them) — after the 4 April decision was handed down. The only explanation I can think of is pretty weak, especially given her commitment to Lumos and the cause of children in institutional care. “She found she liked being free of Twitter obligations and decided to let it go on so she could continue to focus on her work.” As I said, that’s “thin” as explanations go.

Tomorrow I want to share a third possibility for Rowling’s Twitter silence, one that explains the silence beyond imagined personal reasons and hypothetical court orders. Call it ‘Narrative Control’ with a dash of wish fulfillment. Stay tuned!


  1. I disagree that it’s bad optics for JKR to sue. This lady was found guilty, and you should never steal from your boss. Here it’s a lose-lose situation: you allow your PAs to steal £20k, or you sue and look like a dragon protecting their hoard (Though JKR said proceeds would go to Lumos).

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