12:50pm PT by Alex Ben Block
Judge Rejects Fraud Claim in HFPA Lawsuit Against Former Publicist
A fraud charge by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in its countersuit against former publicist Michael Russell has been tossed by a L.A. Superior Court judge, but the rest of the suit will go forward.
In granting portions of a legal demurer, Judge Kevin Brazile ruled Tuesday that the HFPA had failed to state a specific cause of action on the fraud charge. “The allegations are not clearly and particularly stated in the complaint,” the judge wrote in the ruling, “and therefore the allegations are insufficient.”
The ruling will be permanent in 20 days if the HFPA doesn’t come back and amend its suit with specific reasons for the fraud allegations.
The court made no determination on the merits of the breach of contract allegations.
Russell, through his The Michael Russell Group, was the publicist for the HFPA for 17 years until his contract was not renewed last year. In January, Russell sued for $2 million, and made a number of claims about how the HFPA operated. A month later the HFPA filed its countersuit.
In May, the judge ruled the HFPA did not interfere with Russell's film attracting and retaining clients due to what is known as the anti-SLAPP law, which protects the right to free speech.