Harvey Weinstein will have to face Ashley Judd’s claim of sexual harassment, although the actress has never been employed by a dishonest movie mogul. On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the California Civil Code, Section 51.9, sufficiently covered their relationship to give Judd a chance to prosecute him for sexual harassment.
Judd claims in her complaint that she became a victim of Weinstein when a film magnate asked her in a hotel room 20 years ago. Judd says she ran away after she decided on a deal where she would let him touch her if she won the Academy Award. Judd later said she seriously discussed the great role of the Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, but the opportunity was torpedoed after Weinstein or someone from Miramax told the director that she had a “nightmare”; with her.
In September 2018, a federal judge allowed Judd to claim defamation, but not sexual harassment, because, according to the judge’s interpretation of § 51.9, the statute did not apply to relationships aimed at future employment.
The case then reached the ninth circle, which dealt in detail with California’s attempt to codify women’s right to work without undue sexual advancement. Did this law include Hollywood’s “casting couch,” which means gaining sexual benefits for roles in movies and television shows? And how do you understand the recent California Government amendment #MeToo, which added “director or producer” to the types of professions that are explicitly listed in the statute as covered? As Weinstein’s lawyers have said, was the amendment a lack of law or did it only clarify the scope of the law, as Judd claimed?
“In summary, we conclude that, as stated, section 51.9 clearly includes a relationship between Judd and Weinstein, which was ‘substantially similar’ to the relationship between ‘trade, services or a professional relationship’.[s]”Appointed in the statute,” writes Mary Murguia, a judge of the ninth district. “As in the aforementioned relationships, their relationship consisted of a natural imbalance of power in which Weinstein was uniquely positioned to exert pressure or leverage on Juddos based on his professional position and influence as a leading producer in Hollywood. We have no difficulty in concluding that the California Supreme Court would reach the same conclusion, thus avoiding the need to uphold the question. The District Court therefore erred in rejecting Judd’s request for sexual harassment under section 51.9. ‘ “
You can read the whole opinion here.
“This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd, but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships,” said Ted Boutrous, Gibson Dunn’s partner representing Judd. “The Court of Justice has rightly held that California law prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation by film producers and others in strong positions, even outside the context of employment, and we look forward to continuing this lawsuit against Mr. Weinstein.”
Weinstein lawyer responded Phyllis Kupferstein, “We are glad that both Judd and Mr Weinstein will have their day in court, where we expect the truth to come out. The slightest investigation into the events will show that Mr Weinstein did not even defame Mrs Judd, prevent her or interfere with her career, and she certainly never retaliated against her and did not really retaliate. Instead, Mr. Weinstein fought for his work and approved its cast for two of his films. ‘ “
This article originally appeared on THR.com.