LOS ANGELES (CN) – A judge on Thursday tentatively denied a bid by top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy to settle a contract lawsuit by former Playboy model Shera Bechard out of court, finding the claims against him must be decided at trial.
Broidy, a major GOP donor with ties to the White House, had an affair with Bechard in 2017. He impregnated her and agreed to pay $1.6 million in installments as part of a confidentiality agreement.
The hush agreement was arranged by President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, who also facilitated a hush agreement between porn star Stormy Daniels, Trump and shell company Essential Consultants. Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid ahead of the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet.
After news broke of the affair, Broidy stopped making payments to Bechard because he said she violated the confidentiality agreement by speaking about it. Bechard then sued.
In his motion to compel arbitration, Broidy argued Bechard’s lawsuit “should have never been filed” because she signed the hush agreement, therefore agreeing to arbitrate. He also said California law requires breaches of contract be settled out of court.
At a hearing Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth White tentatively denied Broidy’s request because she wanted to avoid complicating proceedings in the case.
White said arbitration could conflict with Bechard’s cross-claims against her former attorney Keith Davidson – who she accuses of forcing her to sign a one-sided agreement – and Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, who she says forced the release of confidential information regarding the contract.
White dismissed Bechard’s other claims against the pair this past September, and Avenatti has appealed her decision to advance the remaining cause of action.
Bechard said in opposition to Broidy’s motion that either Davidson and Avenatti are liable for the remaining $1.2 million owed to her, or Broidy is. She noted “third-party litigation exception” under California law allows for denial of forced arbitration.
White agreed, saying there is a “huge possibility of inconsistent rulings.”
Broidy’s attorney Jessica Bina of Latham & Watkins said there shouldn’t be any conflict with the cross-claim against Avenatti, which was stayed by an appeals court.
“I think it would be outside the court’s jurisdiction to rule on [the motion to compel] while the claims are subject to a stay,” Bina said.
White said the allegations against Avenatti “play into the court’s determination as to whether there will be inconsistent rulings,” appellate stay or not.
Davidson’s attorney Paul Berra said he appreciated the tentative ruling but didn’t want the stay to extend to discovery in the case since the claims against Avenatti aren’t directly related to Broidy’s affair with Bechard.
“There’s a good chunk of the case that, with targeted discovery, could lead to not only the fleshing out of facts but also settlement discussions earlier than one would expect,” Berra said. “Whatever happens to Mr. Avenatti, I don’t think that we need to stay everything.”
Bina told White that a stay of the claim against Avenatti could suffice until Bechard’s claims against Broidy are resolved.
“The appropriate remedy is not to deny all arbitration in the case,” Bina said. “Avenatti wasn’t a party to the contract. Someone breached the contract and it was not Mr. Avenatti.”
White wasn’t convinced.
“You’ve made your argument but it’s not persuasive,” White said. “The claims are inextricably intertwined and I’m concerned that allowing discovery is potentially going to prejudice (Avenatti).”
Avenatti did not appear in court Thursday. The Los Angeles Police Department arrested him Wednesday on suspicion of domestic violence.
He took to Twitter to note he hasn’t been charged with anything and blasted “inaccurate reporting” about the incident.
“I want to be clear: I DID NOT commit domestic violence nor have I ever committed domestic violence. I did not strike any woman nor have I ever,” Avenatti tweeted. “I am a decent man & I look forward to being exonerated.”
Both of Avenatti’s ex-wives defended him following the arrest, saying they never knew him to be violent toward them or anyone else.