A Los Angeles federal judge heard arguments but made no immediate ruling Tuesday on Harvey Weinstein’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Ashley Judd, alleging that the disgraced producer tried to have the actress blackballed in Hollywood as retaliation for rejecting his sexual advances.
Weinstein’s attorney alleged that the claims in Judd’s lawsuit were barred by the statute of limitations, since they date back to the 1990s. The attorney also asserted 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.
There was no indication when U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez might issue his ruling.
Weinstein attorney Phyllis Kupferstein argued that Judd’s contention that Weinstein defamed her and hurt her career in 1998 by telling director Peter Jackson that the actress was a “nightmare” to work with was invalid both because the claim fell outside the statute of limitations in such claims and because Judd made no attempt to investigate exactly why the director did not cast her in his Oscar-winning “Lord of the Rings” film series.
Judd “could’ve filed a lawsuit and taken Mr. Jackson’s deposition and found out what caused her not to get the job,” Kupferstein told the judge, adding that there was no evidence that her client actually made the “nightmare” comment to begin with.
However, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., the lead lawyer representing Judd, countered that Judd did not investigate because she “had no reason to believe that Harvey Weinstein was secretly smearing her.”
“It’s all about retaliation,” the lawyer said.
Boutrous said Jackson had confirmed to members of his legal team that Weinstein had indeed made the “nightmare” comment, which caused “tangible, immediate harm” to Judd’s career because the “Rings” director “viewed it as a serious factual statement.”
Kupferstein responded that the plaintiff’s allegation that Judd’s career stalled because she was not cast in “Lord of the Rings” was simply “not plausible.”
Judd claims Weinstein made sexual advances toward her in 1997 at a Beverly Hills hotel. She alleges that she managed to elude Weinstein by proposing a “mock contract” by falsely telling him she would let him touch her when she won an Oscar for one of his films.
Boutrous said Weinstein was a “self-proclaimed godfather … there’s not many people who had that power at the time” — and his actions towards Judd amounted to “severe sexual harassment” under the statute at issue in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
“What happened to her is so egregious,” Boutrous alleged outside court in downtown Los Angeles. “Mr. Weinstein had the keys to the kingdom — and he was abusing his position.”
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 against him.
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