LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge threw out actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claim against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday, but allowed her defamation claim to move forward.
Judd, 50, argues Weinstein torpedoed her career after she rejected his sexual advances in a hotel room two decades ago. 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 and co-producer Fran Walsh cost her a key role in that trilogy – a fact she says she only learned about in December 2017.
In her lawsuit filed last year in Los Angeles federal court, Judd alleged defamation, interference with her career and a violation of business and professional code. Weinstein also faces criminal prosecution in New York for multiple sexual assault charges.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ruled that Judd’s claim of sexual harassment did not fall under the state law definition.
“The court makes clear that it is not determining whether plaintiff was sexually harassed in the colloquial sense of the term,” Gutierrez wrote. “The only question presented by the current motion is whether the harassment that plaintiff allegedly suffered falls within the scope of the California statute that she has sued under.”
California law was recently amended to include professional relationships between directors and producers who can be held accountable under sexual harassment claims.
A business or professional relationship existed between Judd and Weinstein, she argued. The updated state code added the language of a defendant who “holds himself or herself out as being able to help the plaintiff establish a business, service, or professional relationship with the defendant or a third party.”
But Gutierrez said Judd’s complaint could not be applied retroactively to the updated state code.
Fundamentally, Gutierrez says Judd’s professional relationship with Weinstein in the hotel room was centered around employment or potential employment.
“For this reason, plaintiff’s attempt to describe the relationship as substantially similar to one with a banker and loan officer because her meeting with defendant ‘was inherently evaluative’ falls flat,” the judge wrote.
In a previous ruling in September, Gutierrez wrote, “Plaintiff argues that the statute was intended to cover harassment in ‘power relationships,’ but the statute does not use that term.” He allowed Judd to amend her complaint to make the case that Weinstein’s actions and their professional relationship would fall under the state’s scope, but the judge was not convinced Wednesday.
Judd will, however, be allowed to pursue her defamation claim that Weinstein’s comments impacted her ability to make a living as an actress.
Judd’s lead attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr. at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said in a statement, “Nothing about the court’s ruling changes that Ms. Judd’s case is moving forward on multiple claims seeking millions of dollars in damages from Mr. Weinstein to punish his egregious misconduct.”
Meanwhile, Weinstein asked Gutierrez earlier this week to stay the civil case in Los Angeles pending the outcome of the New York criminal case.
An email to a public relations firm fielding questions for Weinstein did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.