Quebec Premier Jean Charest appeared in court Wednesday morning as a defamation lawsuit against his former justice minister Marc Bellemare enters its preliminary stage. Charest is suing Bellemare for $700,000, alleging that Bellemare slandered his reputation when he went public with accusations of influence-peddling in connection with the alleged nomination of Liberal-friendly judges. Bellemare claims he was pressured by high-ranking Liberal organizers to name certain lawyers to the bench while he served in Charest’s cabinet and that the premier was aware of irregularities. When Bellemare went public with his accusations in April, it set off a firestorm at the National Assembly. Charest denied the claims and threatened a lawsuit before announcing a provincial commission to investigate Quebec’s judicial nomination process. Bellemare has until Sept. 3 to present his arguments, and will be counter-questioned by Charest’s lawyer, André Ryan, in the fall. Both parties have until Dec. 15 to provide the courts with necessary documents.