Harvey Weinstein Wants to Pause Ashley Judd Lawsuit Because of Criminal "Overlap"

Ashley Judd and Harvey Weinstein -Split-Getty-H 2017
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic; Venturelli/WireImage

As Harvey Weinstein fights to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, his attorneys appear to be copying and pasting legal briefs.

On Monday night, the embattled movie mogul submitted a motion to pause the lawsuit brought by Ashley Judd. According to the memorandum in support of a stay, "Weinstein should not be forced to decide between being prejudiced in this civil litigation, if he asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege, or being prejudiced in criminal litigation, if he waives that privilege in this case."

That's pretty much the position offered up previously by Weinstein's lawyers in other civil cases, including the one brought by Alexandra Canosa, a former associate producer on the Netflix show Marco Polo, who alleges being the victim of sexual harassment.

The question becomes whether Weinstein is adequately explaining the prejudice he faces from having to testify in these civil lawsuits.

Judd is suing Weinstein with the allegation that she was sexually harassed, too. She claims that Weinstein made sexual demands on her in a hotel room about 20 years ago. After rebuffing his advances, Judd says she later learned that Weinstein defamed her by telling Peter Jackson that she was a "nightmare" to work with. Judd believes the comment cost her a role in Lord of the Rings.

The judge in the case is allowing Judd to assert claims for defamation, but not for sexual harassment. A judge allowed Judd to re-plead her sexual harassment claim back in September, but this week, dismissed that claim without any opportunity to reprise. The defamation case continues. 

Of course, Weinstein's biggest legal threat at the moment is the criminal action in New York. There, he faces charges of sexually assaulting two women. A judge recently denied Weinstein's effort to dismiss the case — and it's now headed to trial in May.

In the bid to stop Judd's suit from actively proceeding, Weinstein presents the prospect of a lose-lose decision.

"Weinstein cannot defend himself against [Judd's] sexual harassment claim without also giving testimony and other information which may be used by the prosecution against him and which will likely prejudice his defense of the ongoing criminal prosecution," states in his newest memorandum. "[A] stay is warranted to preserve Weinstein’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination."

While that sounds reasonable at first blush, there's arguably a big difference between this situation and the one that caused a partial pause on the civil litigation against Bill Cosby when the comedian was facing his own criminal trial. (Weinstein cites the Cosby case as precedent.) Namely, Cosby was accused in all of the cases — even the defamation suits — of committing sexual assault. Here, Judd isn't alleging rape or a forced sexual act.

Nevertheless, Weinstein's lawyers tell the California judge that Judd's allegations of sexual misconduct "parallel the allegations of sexual misconduct in the New York County District Attorney’s Office criminal case against Weinstein."

Are his lawyers conflating different kinds of sexual misconduct? Or is it true, as the brief states, "There is substantial overlap in the issues presented by the civil and criminal cases"?

Weinstein's lawyers glide past much of an explanation and avoid any specific comparisons between alleged rape a decade ago and alleged sexual harassment two decades ago. They say prosecutors in the New York case will seek to introduce allegations of uncharged similar sexual conduct, and without much support, assert, "[I]t is clear the prosecution is going to seek to introduce Plaintiff's allegations as evidence against Weinstein."

Do they really think Judd's allegations of being denied a role in Lord of the Rings will make it into the criminal trial or is this an example of a poorly drafted legal brief? Make up your own mind. Here's the full motion, which has further evidence of carelessness including a highlighted missing date on the eighth page.