Ashley Judd to proceed with her defamation claim against Harvey Weinstein

On Wednesday, a federal judge decided to rule that Ashley Judd may pursue her allegations that Harvey Weinstein blacklisted her after she declined his sexual advances.

Judge Philip S. Gutierrez said she will only be able to proceed with defamation claims.

A sexual harassment claim was rejected and the judge wrote that he is skeptical that the statute being invoked “can ever properly be applied to a relationship between a potential employer and a prospective employee.”

READ MORE: Ashley Judd sues Harvey Weinstein, claiming he ruined her career

“We are very pleased that today the District Court held that Ashley Judd can proceed with her lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and continue her effort to vindicate the wrongs he committed against her among so many other women,” Judd’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, said. “The law should not tolerate this abuse of power to damage another’s career.”

Boutrous also said the case will now proceed to discovery, including taking Weinstein’s deposition.

Judd’s civil suit, filed in April, accused Weinstein of discouraging Peter Jackson in 1998 from casting her in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings movie franchise in retaliation for her refusing Weinstein’s sexual advances.

READ MORE: Peter Jackson says Weinsteins told him to blacklist Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd

Judd was one of the first women in October 2017 to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, helping give rise to the #MeToo social media movement against sexual misconduct that has contributed to the downfall of several leading figures in the media, entertainment, politics and corporate America.

In October 2017, Judd revealed to the New York Times that Weinstein invited her to a hotel room in late 1996 or early 1997, tried to massage her and asked her to watch him take a shower. She refused and walked out of the room.

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Judd’s lawsuit cited an interview with Jackson published by the New Zealand news website Stuff in December 2017, quoting him saying he had heard from Weinstein’s former film company, Miramax, that Judd was a “nightmare to work with.”

The New Zealand director, according to the Stuff article, said that assessment of Judd persuaded him not to cast her but he later came to believe she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

READ MORE: Ashley Judd speaks for the first time about alleged Weinstein incident

The article surfaced as a central topic at a hearing on Tuesday in which Weinstein’s lawyer Phyllis Kupferstein asked U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in Los Angeles to dismiss Judd’s lawsuit.

Judd’s lawyer said in court her legal team had spoken with Jackson and determined he was correctly quoted in the Stuff article and that it was Weinstein himself who had disparaged Judd to Jackson.

Weinstein’s lawyers also claimed that he tried to cast Judd in other roles, proving he did not intend to harm her career. Weinstein’s lawyers also said that his statement that Judd was a “nightmare” was an opinion, and therefore not a provable fact subject to a defamation claim.

Gutierrez also dismissed the statute of limitations objections, finding it plausible that Judd did not know she had been blacklisted until the Jackson interview was published.

READ MORE: Harvey Weinstein: Who is the Hollywood producer accused of sexual harassment?

He wrote that Judd need only raise a plausible inference at this stage that she would have been unable to learn of Weinstein’s statements about her to Jackson.

“At this point, no evidence has been presented about whether it is common in the industry for actors to inquire into why they were not cast, and further, no evidence has been presented as to whether Jackson and Walsh would have informed Plaintiff about Defendant’s statements had she asked them why she was not given a role in the Lord of the Rings films,” states the order (read here).

“Taking Plaintiff’s allegations as true — as the Court must at this stage — the Court concludes that she has raised a plausible inference that she would not have been able to learn about Defendant’s statements during the limitations period, even if she had conducted a diligent investigation.”

Gutierrez granted Judd’s lawyers the opportunity to amend the harassment claim and an amended complaint is due on Oct. 19.

— With files from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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