Harvey Weinstein, Ashley Judd sexual harassment case postponed

Harvey Weinstein may be facing life in prison if found guilty in his upcoming rape trial in New York this summer, but he won’t have to deal with Ashley Judd’s retaliation case for a while.

“The Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to stay this case pending resolution of his criminal case in New York, with the exception that the stay does not extend to any appeal Plaintiff takes from the Court’s entry of judgment on its order dismissing her sexual harassment claim,” wrote U.S. District Judge Philip Guterrez today in a mixed bag of orders that are technically wins for both sides (read it here).

The much-accused producer is expected back in court back east on April 26 with his new-ish lawyer and set to go to trial on June 3 in the Empire State. Yesterday, Weinstein’s west coast lawyers successfully made their argument in DTLA that allowing the "Berlin Station" actor’s civil case to go forward simultaneously would make fighting legal battles on at least two fronts too much for Weinstein and could hinder his rights.

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It is a notion that attorneys for Weinstein have put forth in several other actions their client faces, to varying degrees of success. All parties in the Judd case are ordered to meet two weeks after Weinstein’s criminal trial starts for an update on the matter. A June 29 status conference has also been set, giving Weinstein a little over two and a half months to show that the Judd case should still remain halted.

However, with the overall nearly yearlong Judd case has seen the pause button hit for now, the actor has also been permitted to try to get the sexual harassment claim back into the matter after it was first tossed aside on an exaggerated technicality back in September of last year. That decision was reiterated in January of this year by Judge Guterrez when he declared that a 1990s hotel room encounter in which Weinstein allegedly attempted to physically assault Judd did not fit the legal definition of workplace sexual harassment under a previous California statute.

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That may or may not change now, but at least Judd has another shot before the previous scheduled 2020 start of her retaliation case against Weinstein first filed last April.

“Taking all of the circumstances into account, the Court concludes that there are no just reasons for delaying appeal of the dismissal of Plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim under § 51.9,” the federal judge said in another order (read it here) Tuesday coming off the oral arguments from both sides on Monday. “The claim presents novel legal questions that are entirely distinct from Plaintiff’s other claims, and appellate review may provide important guidance to other courts grappling with similar issues. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for entry of judgment on her sexual harassment claim.”

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“The Court’s order staying Ms. Judd’s case while Mr. Weinstein is on trial for rape and other charges is no surprise, since the Court took the view that when Mr. Weinstein finally answers her questions under oath prosecutors could use any truthful answers he’s given to try to put him in prison,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Michael Dore, one of Judd’s lawyer, told Deadline today. “At the same time, we’re very pleased that the Court has given Ms. Judd a chance to immediately seek an order from the Court of Appeal regarding what the Court described as an ‘issue of first impression’ under California law that could affect others like Ms. Judd who only recently discovered that sexual harassment harmed their career prospects.”

Reps for Weinstein had nothing to say on Tuesday’s orders

Claiming intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, Judd’s suit in no small part focuses on  a December 2017 exclusive by Deadline that director Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh wanted to cast the "A Time to Kill" actor in 1998 in their Miramax-backed and Weinstein-produced "Lord of the Rings" movies.

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Judd’s lawsuit asserted that because the actor sexually rejected the producer, Weinstein “torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity” when he told Jackson and Walsh “that [his] studio had had a ‘bad experience’ with Ms. Judd, and that Ms. Judd was a ‘nightmare’ to work with and should be avoided ‘at all costs.’ “

Weinstein has denied this was the case and that he in any way influenced Jackson and Walsh in who they put in the cast of the Oscar winning franchise. With promises from Judd’s attorneys that the "LOTR" director and producer will be playing a role themselves in next year’s trial, Walsh and Jackson have made it pretty clear that they don’t agree with Weinstein’s POV.

Last year Weinstein was indicted on two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape. Even with some charges being trimmed off since the Pulp Fiction producer was arrested the remaining five felony charges from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s office carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment for the Oscar-winning producer under the Empire State’s sex crimes laws.

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Along with being accused by Judd and more than 60 other women of sexual assault or sexual harassment, Weinstein is under investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the probe by the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the NYPD. Additional allegations against Weinstein have been reviewed by the LAPD, which sent an initial trio of cases to the L.A. County D.A. in February last year. Another case was handed over to that same office in August. As UK police continue their investigation, the Beverly Hills Police in January 2018 passed two cases of sexual assault its says occurred in their jurisdiction to Lacey’s office.