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A federal appeals court has reinstated the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by actress Ashley Judd against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
In late 1996 or 1997 Mr. Weinstein invited Ms. Judd to a breakfast meeting in a Beverly Hills hotel and she was directed to his private hotel room where the two were alone, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Ashley Judd v. Harvey Weinstein.
Mr. Weinstein, who was clad in a bathrobe, asked Ms. Judd if he could give her a massage, and then if she would watch him shower, both of which requests she refused. She then left the room, according to the ruling.
Subsequently, director Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh considered Ms. Judd for a role in the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie. But they did not cast her after Mr. Weinstein told them his company Miramax had had a “bad experience” with her in the past, that she was “a nightmare to work with” and that they should avoid her “at all costs,” the ruling said.
In late 2017, Mr. Walsh revealed he chose not to cast Ms. Judd in the Lords of the Rings, which eventually became a successful trilogy, because of Mr. Weinstein’s statements about Ms. Judd’s professionalism, which is when Ms. Judd learned why she was not cast in the film.
In April 2018 she filed suit in state court on charges of defamation, sexual harassment, intentional interference with prospective economic advance and violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law. The case was removed to U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, which ruled in Mr. Weinstein’s favor.
The ruling was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel. “Under the facts alleged, the relationship between Judd and Weinstein was characterized by a considerable imbalance of power,” the ruling said.
“That is, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment,” the ruling said.
“Moreover, given Weinstein’s highly influential and ‘unavoidable’ presence in the film industry the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate ‘without tangible hardship’ to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles,” the ruling said in citing California state code. The case was remanded for further proceedings.
Ms. Judd’s attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Los Angeles, said in a statement, “This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships.
“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.”
Mr. Weinstein’s attorney, Phyllis Kupferstein, a partner with Kupferstein Manual LLP in Los Angeles, said in a statement, “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.
“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 and, indeed, had nothing to retaliate for. 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.
Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected a proposed class-action settlement in litigation filed by Harvey Weinstein’s victims.