(UPDATED with statement from Weinstein lawyer) More than four months after being sentenced to 23 years behind bars for rape and other sex crimes, Harvey Weinstein now will have to finally face Ashley Judd in court in the Berlin Station actor’s sexual harassment case.
Reversing a lower court’s 2018 decision on the grounds of a perceived lack of an employment relationship to toss out Judd’s claims, a trio of Pasadena-based judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has set the stage for a trial likely early next year.
“Their relationship consisted of an inherent power imbalance wherein Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercion or leverage over Judd by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood,” Judge Mary H. Murguia wrote in the opinion (read it here) released Wednesday, flipping the nearly two-year-old ruling by Judge Philip Gutierrez.
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“We have no difficulty concluding that the California Supreme Court would reach the same conclusion, obviating the need to certify the question,” Murguia added comprehensively. “Therefore, the district court erred when it dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim.”
Mere minutes after the opinion was made public, Judd’s heavyweight attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, who argued the matter before the Appeals Court back on May 8, made sure to make the big picture clear for his client and others.
“This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships,” the Gibson Dunn lawyer told Deadline. “The court correctly holds that California law forbids sexual harassment and retaliation by film producers and others in powerful positions, even outside the employment context, and we look forward to pursuing this claim against Mr Weinstein at trial.”
Representatives for Weinstein, who recently saw a heavily criticized proposed $19 million global settlement with other victims of his alleged abuse rejected by another federal judge, took a while to respond to today’s opinion – but they weren’t playing defense.
“We are glad that both Ms. Judd and Mr. Weinstein will have their day in court, where we expect the truth will come to light,” said Phyllis Kupferstein.
“The most minimal investigation of the events will show that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd, nor hindered or interfered with her career, and certainly never retaliated against her,” the lawyer added. “Instead, Mr. Weinstein championed her work and approved her casting for two of his movies. Mr. Weinstein fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the part. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009. In addition, the record on Lord of the Rings will finally be made absolutely clear – that Mr. Weinstein had no authority over the project as it belonged to a different production company that had full staffing control of the film.”
Claiming intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, Judd’s initial suit in no small part focuses on a December 2017 exclusive by Deadline that director Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh wanted to cast the A Time to Kill actor in 1998 in their Miramax-backed and Weinstein-produced The Lord of the Rings movies.
Judd’s lawsuit asserted that because the actor sexually rejected the producer after a meeting at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, Weinstein “torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity” when he told Jackson and Walsh “that [his] studio had had a ‘bad experience’ with Ms. Judd, and that Ms. Judd was a ‘nightmare’ to work with and should be avoided ‘at all costs.’ “
Up until recently, as with a number of other matters involving actions against the Oscar-winning producer, Judd’s civil case had been on pause because of Weinstein’s NYC-set criminal case and trial.
After a trial that lasted almost two months, on February 24, Weinstein was found guilty of two sex crime felony charges. Allegedly suffering from a litany of health issues that saw him in and out of Bellevue Hospital, Weinstein was sentenced to more than two decades in a state prison on March 11.
Facing a COVID-19 pandemic delayed extradition to Los Angeles on a series of rape and sex-crime charges, including an April 10-added sexual battery by restraint charge, the one-time coronavirus infected Pulp Fiction EP is presently out of isolation and serving time at the maximum security Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo, NY. The 68-year-old Weinstein has also been accused of raping a 17-year-old in 1994 in a May 29 jury trial-seeking suit.
Weinstein also recently failed to get a sex-trafficking class action tossed out and is the subject of a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002. He is additionally facing allegations from close to 100 other women who say he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them.
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