A federal appeals court has confirmed what actresses have been saying since the dawn of the movie industry—there is an "inherent power imbalance" in the relationship between performers and producers. The ruling allows Ashley Judd to proceed with her sexual harassment case against Harvey Weinstein, which a lower court rejected on a technicality last year, reports Bloomberg. Judd says that to escape Weinstein's advances in a Beverly Hills hotel room in the 1990s, she promised he could "touch her' if she won an Oscar in one of his movies. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that while Judd wasn't technically Weinstein's employee at the time, the producer-actor relationship has a similar imbalance to other relationships, including teacher-student, covered by sexual harassment laws at the time.
"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," wrote Judge Mary H. Murguia for the three-judge panel, per Variety. Judd filed the lawsuit in 2018 after Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson disclosed that Weinstein had told him Judd was a "nightmare" to work with. She says Weinstein "torpedoed" her career as payback for rejecting his advances. Judd's attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous, tells Deadline that the ruling is "an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships." After Judd's lawsuit was filed, California's sexual harassment law was amended to clearly state that it covers producers and actors. (Read more Ashley Judd stories.)