The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’s ruling has consequences that go beyond Judd’s individual case.
A federal court will allow actress Ashley Judd to continue a sexual harassment lawsuit against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The New York Times reports that Judd’s claim had earlier been dismissed by a lower court. But on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a reversal, saying Judd’s lawsuit can proceed as planned.
Judd, says the Times, has accused Weinstein of attempting to sabotage her acting career. In her lawsuit, Judd alleged that Weinstein attempted to prevent her from obtaining new roles after she rejected his sexual advances.
But Judd’s claim was tied up—seemingly indefinitely—in January, following Los Angeles district court judge’s determination that the actress was ineligible to sue Weinstein for sexual harassment, since she did not have a “specific business relationship” with the producer when the misconduct purportedly took place.
However, the Ninth Circuit Court specifically rejected that judge’s interpretation of California law on sexual harassment and misconduct.
“By virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment,” the judges wrote. “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 n being cast for roles.”
Judd, adds the New York Times, has long sought to continue her individual lawsuit against Weinstein, specifically declining to join a class action comprised of other dozens of women who claim that Weinstein sexually assaulted or harassed them.
Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., an attorney for Judd, told the New York Times in an e-mail that the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling is highly significant.
“This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships,” Boutrous, Jr., wrote. “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.”
Judd, adds Reuters, specifically accused Weinstein of discouraging director Peter Jackson from casting her in “The Lord of the Rings.”
An attorney for Weinstein maintained her client’s long-held position that Weinstein never wronged Judd—or any other women.
“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,” attorney Phyllis Kupferstein said in a statement. “The most minimal investigation of 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.”
Weinstein, notes Reuters, was sentenced to 23 years in prison by a New York state court, following convictions for rape and sexual assault.