Weinstein Fights to Dodge Ashley Judd Defamation Suit

This combination photo shows Ashley Judd during the 2017 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on July 25, 2017, left, and Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2017. Judd has sued Harvey Weinstein, saying he hurt her acting career in retaliation for her rejecting his sexual advances. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – An attorney for disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein lobbied a Los Angeles federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss actress Ashley Judd’s defamation action against the producer – claims that are the touchstone of the “Me Too” movement that has roiled Hollywood for the better part of a year.

Judd sued Weinstein this past April, claiming he torpedoed her career and made sure she lost out on acting jobs because she rejected his sexual advances in the late 1990s. The 50-year-old Judd says Weinstein, now 66, told directors she was “a nightmare” to work with, causing her professional and economic harm.

According to Judd, Weinstein’s words to “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson cost her a key role in that trilogy.

In his motion to dismiss, Weinstein downplayed his impact on Judd’s career and said the two made a “mock” bargain in a hotel room where the alleged sexual advance took place. Weinstein said Judd agreed to let him touch her when she won an Academy Award – she has never been nominated – and that his comments about her were his opinions, made so long ago the statute of limitations has long run out.

Weinstein also said he can’t have sexually harassed Judd because they had no “business, service, or professional relationship” between them and their encounter was not “pervasive or severe” sexual harassment.

On Tuesday, Judd’s attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher told U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez that Hollywood is a tight-knit community and Weinstein was in a position of power to judge if she was qualified for certain roles and she relied on his approval. That power imbalance fits the definition of sexual harassment under California law, Boutrous said.

“It fits like a glove,” said Boutrous.

Weinstein’s attorney, Phyllis Kupferstein with Kupferstein Manuel, said under the same law Judd could have easily ended their professional relationship.

“He was not the only producer in Hollywood,” said Kupferstein. She said Judd should have sued years ago because, according to Judd, Weinstein continued to hold her to their “mock” bargain at movie events.

The claim that Weinstein’s comments impacted Judd’s career amount to speculation, said Kupferstein.

“There are so many reasons why someone was not cast in a part,” Kupferstein said, noting Judd never asked at the time or since why she didn’t get the part in “The Lord of the Rings.”

“Some might think it’s sour grapes,” said Gutierrez, adding Judd could have hurt her own career by asking.

Also, Kupferstein said Judd bases her claims on interviews in which Jackson switched between saying it was Weinstein and then Miramax Films who disparaged Judd. Based on that, Judd did not do her due diligence and it’s not sufficient to say Weinstein badmouthed her to Jackson, said Kupferstein.

When Gutierrez noted Judd is claiming Weinstein and Miramax were one in the same, Kupferstein said, “He had a brother, Bob Weinstein,” among many other Miramax employees.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein founded Miramax in 1979.

Later, Boutrous said that his law firm had contacted Jackson to clarify the comments made by Weinstein and there is evidence to back that up.

“We did do our due diligence,” said Boutrous. “We’re not just making this up.”

Gutierrez took Weinstein’s motion to dismiss under advisement. He did not indicate when he would rule.

 

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