A jury will decide Jim Allister's libel action against unionist rival Ian Paisley jnr, it has been disclosed.
Lawyers on both sides have agreed that a panel drawn from members of the public should be appointed to hear the case. The trial will get under way on January 21.
Mr Paisley is being sued by Mr Allister, the Traditional Unionist Voice leader, over allegations contained in an election leaflet. The pair stood against each other in the 2010 Westminster poll.
Mr Allister had sought to have distribution of the leaflet banned before the election.
He claimed it could have serious consequences because of the potential impact on the thinking of voters in the constituency. Although he failed to secure an injunction, his legal team have since pursued defamation proceedings.
The court was told previously that any attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation would be a waste of time.
It was confirmed yesterday that the parties have now consented to a jury being appointed, rather than a judge alone deciding the case.
David Scoffield QC, for Mr Paisley, told the court: “We have asked for a jury all along. We had been told by the other side until this morning that they object to a jury.”
Mr Justice Gillen instructed the legal teams to consider who should be potentially excluded from sitting on the panel.
He suggested they may want to bar any members of political parties and electioneering agents.