Actress Ashley Judd has sexual harassment against a convicted rapist, and former producer Harvey Weinstein may continue, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
Judd sued Weinstein for sexual harassment and slander in 2018 and accused Weinstein of trying to force her to massage him and watch him shower in the mid-1990s.
When she refused, Judd said Weinstein had hurt her career by telling people she had a hard time working with, including Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. He said Weinstein had advised him to throw Judd into a fantasy trilogy, The Associated Press reported.
A junior judge handed down the harassing part of the trial, but a three-member jury on Wednesday ruled that she could sue under California law that applies to defendants other than employers.
The jury agreed with Judd that the alleged harassment qualified under the law because Weinstein did not directly employ Judd at the time, but that as a famous king in industry he had power over it.
“Weinstein was uniquely positioned to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, a young actor at the beginning of his career at the time of the alleged harassment,”; said District Court Judge Mary Murguia.
“In addition, given Weinstein’s very influential and ‘necessary’ presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would be difficult to end ‘without tangible difficulties’ for Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on casting,” Murguia wrote.
“This is an important victory not only for Mrs. Judd, but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships,” said Theodore Boutrous Jr. in a statement from Judd’s lawyer. “The court rightly holds 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 prosecuting this lawsuit against Mr. Weinstein in court.”
Weinstein was convicted in New York in February of first-degree sexual assault and third-degree rape and has specific criminal charges in California. He denied all charges.