The coal mining exploration licence trial of former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald has been delayed due to "adverse media commentary" following an ongoing anti-corruption hearing.
The NSW Supreme Court trial of the two men, and Obeid's son Moses, was due to start on September 30, but on Monday Justice Elizabeth Fullerton granted their application for a temporary stay until February 3.
The trio are accused of conspiring over the issuing of a coal mining exploration licence on Obeid family land at Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley, near Mudgee.
Justice Fullerton was satisfied there was "unacceptable risk" that their right to a fair trial would be prejudiced if the stay was not granted, according to the summary of her judgment.
This was because of the "intensity, proximity and nature" of pre-trial publicity where the two former ministers are referred to in adverse terms and reference is made to Moses Obeid by association.
The publicity followed public hearings, which began on August 26, by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the conduct of various officials and senior members of the NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party in 2015.
"The press coverage of the ICAC hearing included, by way of commentary, repeated adverse reference to the accused Mr Edward Obeid and Mr Ian Macdonald utilising a range of epithets," the summary said.
The coverage included adverse remarks made on 2SM radio, and an adverse quote from Premier Gladys Berejiklian published in The Daily Telegraph.
Other adverse commentary included an online article published by the Australian Financial Review, an editorial commentary and cartoon in The Daily Telegraph, and commentary in the Weekend Australian and the Guardian.
The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian also attributed various adverse comments to Prime Minister Scott Morrison including comments he allegedly made in question time in parliament, the summary said.
It also referred to a Good Weekend extract of a recently published book in which adverse reference was made to Eddie Obeid.
The judge concluded that the temporary stay should be granted "because of the cumulative effect of adverse media commentary", the summary said.
This was without singling out individual journalists, print media outlets, radio broadcasters or contributors to social media as "more egregious in their commentary than others".
"The order was made despite the disruption to the administration of criminal justice and the cost to the community and the State that is the inevitable result," the summary said.
Australian Associated Press