LOS ANGELES (CNS) – An attorney for actress Ashley Judd today appealed a Los Angeles federal judge’s dismissal of her sexual harassment claim in her lawsuit against now-jailed former film producer Harvey Weinstein.
The judge ruled last year that a California state law covering sexual harassment does not apply in Judd’s case, but determined that the actress can proceed with allegations that the disgraced producer defamed her and ruined her chance for a role in the “Lord of the Rings” film series.
The state sexual harassment law was changed to specifically include directors and producers, but the judge said the revision could not be applied retroactively.
In her April 2018 lawsuit, Judd alleges Weinstein made sexual advances toward her in 1997 at a Beverly Hills hotel while they were meeting to discuss potential film roles. 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.
Appearing Friday via video conferencing before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals, Judd’s attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., argued that the California Civil Code statute at issue applied even without the new wording because it covered “business, service or professional relationships,” which aptly described Judd and Weinstein’s association in 1997.
Weinstein’s attorney, Phyllis Kupferstein, countered that Judd had no professional relationship with her client at the time of the hotel meeting. Years earlier, Judd had worked on the movie “Smoke” made by Miramax Films, which was founded by Weinstein and his brother.
“The relationship has to be existing at the time of the harassment,” Kupferstein argued, saying that the “directors and producers” wording of the statute cannot be applied retroactively.
Boutrous suggested that most Hollywood actors had some sort of tie to Weinstein, simply due to his previous stature in the industry.
Judd “couldn’t sever her ties with Harvey Weinstein,” Boutrous argued. “He was the gateway to professional success for actors. He was still the overlord of the film industry.”
The appellate panel took the matter under submission, but did not indicate when a ruling might be issued.
Weinstein, 68, is currently serving a 23-year sentence in a prison near Buffalo, N.Y., for rape and sexual assault. He is facing five felony counts in Los Angeles involving alleged crimes with three women.
Judd was one of the first women to come forward with harassment allegations against him.