Harvey Weinstein

Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim revived

Ashley Harvey Weinstein will have to face a sexual harassment claim from Ashley Judd even though the actress was never actually employed by the disgraced movie mogul.

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US PRESS GROUP

Harvey Weinstein will have to face a sexual harassment claim from Ashley Judd even though the actress was never actually employed by the disgraced movie mogul.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that California Civil Code § 51.9 encompassed their relationship sufficiently to provide Judd with the ability to sue him for sexual harassment.

Harvey Weinstein will have to face a sexual harassment claim from Ashley Judd even though the actress was never actually employed by the disgraced movie mogul.
about 20 years ago. Judd says that she only escaped after relenting to a deal where she would let him touch her if she won an Academy Award.

Later, Judd says she was in serious discussions for a big role in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, but that opportunity was torpedoed after Weinstein or someone at Miramax told the director that she was a "nightmare" to work with.

In Sept. 2018, a federal judge allowed Judd to pursue a defamation claim, but not a sexual harassment claim because according to the judge's interpretation of §51.9, the statute didn't apply to relationships centered around prospective employment.

The case then went to the Ninth Circuit, which took a hard look at California's attempt codify a women's right to work free of unwanted sexual advances.

Did that law encompass Hollywood's so-called "casting couch," meaning the solicitation of sexual favors for roles in movies and TV shows? And how to make sense of California's recent #MeToo amendment, which added "director or producer" to the types of occupations explicitly mentioned in the statute as being covered?

Was the addition addressing a deficiency in the law, as Weinstein's attorneys argued, or did it merely clarify the scope of the law, as Judd's submitted?

"In sum, we conclude that, as alleged, section 51.9 plainly encompasses Judd and Weinstein’s relationship, which was 'substantially similar' to the 'business, service, or professional relationship[s]' enumerated in the statute," writes Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Murguia.

"As in the enumerated relationships, their relationship consisted of an inherent power imbalance wherein Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercion or leverage over Judd by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood. We have no difficulty concluding that the California Supreme Court would reach the same conclusion, obviating the need to certify the question. Therefore, the district court erred when it dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim under section 51.9."

"This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships," said Ted Boutrous, the Gibson Dunn partner who represents Judd.

"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.”

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