A judge said Friday he likely will order singer/actress Ronee Sue Blakley to pay attorneys’ fees to the entertainer’s former lover, who won dismissal earlier this year of a lawsuit alleging he based the character of an abusive mother on his ex-flame when penning the screenplay for the film “What Maisie Knew.”
However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko said he is inclined to grant less than the $228,120 sought on behalf of writer Carroll Cartwright, whose relationship with Blakley produced a daughter.
Ongkeko said an anti-SLAAP motion involves a complex area of law and that the 476 hours Cartwright’s lawyers spent working on the motion was a reasonable amount of time. He also said that before Blakley began acting as her own attorney she was represented with very capable lawyers familiar with libel law.
“This is a case that did require multiple staffing,” the judge said, adding that it was necessary at the time for Cartwright to hire lawyers to counter the “firepower” attorneys representing Blakley at the time.
Ongkeko heard arguments and took the case under submission.
Blakley and Cartwright were a couple from 1982-87, and they had a daughter, Sarah, who was born in 1988, according to the suit filed in April 2014. Blakley alleges Cartwright developed a “deep hatred” for her during a long child custody battle.
The lawsuit alleged the mother character in the 2012 film, portrayed by Oscar winner Julianne Moore, is a “thinly disguised portrait” of Blakley, now 69.
According to the lawsuit, Cartwright penned the plot for the movie out of spite for Blakley.
But Cartwright’s attorney, Kelli Sager, said the movie was based on an 1897 novel of the same name by Henry James. She said there are numerous dissimilarities between the lives of Blakley and Cartwright and those of the characters in the book, in which James condemns parents for abandoning their responsibilities to their children.
Blakley maintained Cartwright engaged in “wrongdoing” and therefore should not benefit by her having to pay his attorney fees.
But Sager cited a state aimed at discouraging harassing lawsuits, in which the plaintiff in such cases is required to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees
“The law is crystal clear that fees are mandatory,” Sager said. “There is no evidence of wrongdoing and I take umbrage over the way she attacks everyone without any proof whatsoever.”
Cartwright sat in the audience while his attorney and Blakley argued before the judge.
In his ruling dismissing Blakley’s case, Ongkeko said that a typical viewer would not see any similarities between the Susanna character and Blakley.
“Thus, plaintiff has not shown that a reasonable viewer would understand Susanna to be plaintiff,” Ongkeko wrote.
Blakley, who said she once toured with Bob Dylan, was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the 1975 film “Nashville.”
—City News Service
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