AP

Federal Judge Considering Whether to Dismiss Sex Harassment Suit Against Weinstein

September 18, 2018 - 3:40 pm
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LOS ANGELES (/KNX 1070/CNS) - Attorneys for Harvey Weinstein are expected today to ask a Los Angeles federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Ashley Judd that alleges that the disgraced producer tried to have her blackballed in Hollywood as punishment for rejecting his sexual advances.

Lawyers for Weinstein tried to get Judge Phillip Gutierrez to dismiss the case entirely saying Ashley Judd's allegations of sexual harassment that took place in a 1997 Beverly Hills Hotel meeting and alleged defamatory comments made by Weinstein to "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, which were made 20 years ago were outside the statue of limitations.

Judd's lawyer, Ted Butros Jr., countered by saying she only learned about the conversation last year and they are prepared to provide proof of that conversation.

In their dismissal motion -- scheduled for arguments before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez in downtown Los Angeles -- attorneys for Weinstein say the claims in Judd's lawsuit are barred by the statute of limitations, since they date back to the 1990s. The attorneys also contend that Weinstein's alleged conduct toward Judd did not rise to the legal standard of sexual harassment, and comments he allegedly made about her cannot be construed as defamatory.

Judd's attorneys state in their court papers that the Weinstein legal team is wrong.

"Harvey Weinstein's motion to dismiss is a baseless and offensive study in misdirection that demonstrates his malicious and reckless disregard for the law and for Ms. Judd's rights to be free from sexual harassment and retaliation," according to the Judd attorneys' response. `It ignores and misstates key allegations in the complaint, impermissibly cites contradictory extrinsic evidence and relies heavily on cases interpreting a statute that has nothing to do with this case."

Weinstein's motion takes issue with Judd's claim that Weinstein defamed her in 1998 by telling director Peter Jackson -- who at the time was casting for his eventual Oscar-winning "Lord of the Rings" film series -- that Judd was a "nightmare" to work with, thereby costing the actress a shot at appearing in the film. Weinstein's attorneys allege there is a one-year statute of limitations for filing a defamation claim, and thus Judd "filed this action 20 years too late." Judd has contended she did not learn of the remark until last year when Jackson mentioned it in an interview.

Judd claims Weinstein made his sexual advances toward her in 1997 at a Beverly Hills hotel. She has said that she managed to elude Weinstein by falsely telling him she would let him touch her when she wins an Oscar for one of his films

Weinstein's attorneys also contend in the dismissal motion that even if the producer did say Judd was difficult to work with, "the purported statements are not defamatory because they cannot be factually proven or disproven."

"Whether an actor is a `nightmare' to work with is an opinion not capable of being proven," according to the motion. "... Plaintiff may dispute she was difficult to work with but, like beauty, the experience is in the eye of the beholder."

But Judd's attorneys state in their court papers that their client's case should be allowed to move forward.

"Ms. Judd's claims are legally sufficient and she is entitled to take discovery to prove up those claims on the merits," the Judd attorneys state in their court papers. "There is no basis to dismiss any of her claims."

Weinstein is facing sexual assault charges in New York, and he is under investigation by authorities in London and Los Angeles. He has repeatedly denied ever engaging in non-consensual sexual activity.

Judd was one of the first women to come forward with harassment allegations.