Actress Ashley Judd scored a legal victory today, with Variety reporting that a California panel of judges has overruled a lower court judgement that said she couldn’t sue producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual harassment because she wasn’t being actively employed by Weinstein at the time the alleged incidents took place. Said ruling, issued back in January of 2019, confirmed Judd’s right to sue the disgraced producer on retaliation and defamation claims, but stated that the relationship between an actor and a producer, sans some kind of employment contract, wasn’t covered under California’s harassment statutes.
Judd has long contended that Weinstein used his influence in Hollywood to blacklist her after she refused his sexual advances, including citing a comment from Peter Jackson, who says Weinstein discouraged him from casting Judd and Mira Sorvino in the Lord Of The Rings movies because they were a “nightmare to work with.” In supporting Judd’s right to sue on harassment claims, the appeals court today asserted that Weinstein was, essentially, unavoidable in Hollywood during the period when Judd was active, and that he had the influence and power to harm her career in exactly the ways she’s outlined, whether she was working directly for him or not:
That is, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment. Moreover, given Weinstein’s highly influential and “unavoidable” presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate “without tangible hardship” to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles.
Judd originally sued Weinstein back in 2018, not long after allegations against the Weinstein Company head began to be dragged out into the open. Her attorneys called the win “an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships”; an attorney for Weinstein, meanwhile, stated that they’re looking forward to the trial, “where we expect the truth will come to light.” Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence on convictions of sexual assault and rape in New York.