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Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim against Weinstein thrown out again

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Image: Actress Ashley Judd speaks at the Milken Institute's 21st Global Con
Ashley Judd speaks at the Milken Institute's 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on April 30. -
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Lucy Nicholson Reuters file
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LOS ANGELES — A federal judge again threw out part of the actor Ashley Judd's sexual harassment and defamation lawsuit against the film producer Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez first threw out the sexual harassment part of Judd's claim in September, finding that Weinstein and Judd didn't have a specific kind of professional relationship that allowed such claims under California law.

Gutierrez ruled at the time and again Wednesday that Judd could proceed with her defamation claim against Weinstein, whom she accuses of having blackballed her from being cast in "The Lord of the Rings" and other movies after she became one of the first Hollywood actors to speak out against his alleged harassment of women.

"We have said from the beginning that this claim was unjustified, and we are pleased that the court saw it as we did," said Phyllis Kupferstein, an attorney for Weinstein. "We believe that we will ultimately prevail on her remaining claims."

Harvey Weinstein leaves court in New York on June 5.
Harvey Weinstein leaves court in New York on June 5.Brendan McDermid

The California Legislature revised the law last year, specifically adding film directors and producers to the categories of people who can be liable under the measure. Judd refiled the harassment claim under the revised law, which took effect Jan. 1.

Gutierrez ruled Wednesday that the changes were so significant that they fundamentally modified the California law — making it, in effect, a new law. And because the Legislature didn't specify that the modified law should be applied retroactively, Judd can't use it to pursue her sexual harassment claim, he ruled.

But he stressed that he wasn't casting doubt on Judd's underlying claim of sexual harassment.

"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."

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Judd filed the suit in April 2017. According to court documents, Judd claimed that Weinstein, then considered one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood, invited Judd to a hotel room in Beverly Hills in late 1996 or early 1997 to discuss potential film roles.

But when she showed up at the hotel room, Weinstein "appeared in a bathrobe, and, instead of discussing film roles, asked if he could give her a massage," Judd claimed, according to the court documents. She refused, as she did other alleged approaches by Weinstein, including a request that she watch him take a shower, the documents quote Judd as having alleged.

In 2017, Peter Jackson, the director of the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, told a newspaper in his native New Zealand that he had seriously considered casting Judd and the actor Mira Sorvino in the movies but that Miramax, Weinstein's company at the time, told him that "they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs."

"At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us — but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing," Jackson said.

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Weinstein's more recent studio, The Weinstein Co., fired him in October 2017 as dozens of other Hollywood figures alleged inappropriate behavior.

In May, Weinstein was arrested in New York on charges of rape, criminal sexual acts, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. He is due in court March 7 for a pretrial hearing.

"Mr. Weinstein maintains that all of these allegations are false and he expects to be fully vindicated," his attorneys have consistently said.