Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Legal

Judge allows “smear campaign” statements to be considered at Dr Luke v Kesha trial

By | Published on Wednesday 5 September 2018

Dr Luke

Dr Luke has scored another win in his defamation case against Kesha. The judge overseeing the litigation has permitted amendments to the lawsuit. This means Kesha will be asked to defend press statements made by her and her representatives after she originally went legal against the producer in 2014.

The decision follows moves last week by Dr Luke’s legal team to present the much documented accusations that he drugged and raped Kesha as part of a planned campaign to smear him. As part of that, his legal reps presented newly unsealed emails between Kesha managers Jack Rovner and Ken Levitan, along with music industry veteran Irving Azoff, in which they said that they should “battle this guy in the press” and “take down his business”.

Luke’s legal team argue that PR firm Sunshine Sachs and Kesha’s then lawyer Mark Geragos were brought in to deliver a series of media statements to push the allegations of abuse that had been presented in a 2014 lawsuit filed in California. That was one of several legal actions filed in the long running dispute between the producer and his former collaborator.

The aim of that lawsuit and the accompanying media campaign, Dr Luke has long argued, was to force his hand in a contract dispute – Kesha and her team wishing to get her out of various agreements with Luke’s companies.

Kesha dropped Geragos as her legal representative in 2016 and the lawyer himself was sued for defamation by Luke over claims he had made on social media – specifically that the producer had also raped Lady Gaga. This and other statements made by Geragos and others, on TV and in news articles, are among those presented by Luke’s team as evidence of a smear campaign.

Most of the lawsuits filed as part of this long-running dispute have been dropped or dismissed, but the defamation action continues to go through the motions.

When Luke’s legal reps first moved to beef up that legal action, Kesha’s current legal team argued that statements made after their client’s original (now dismissed) lawsuit should not be allowed to be presented as evidence. In particular, statements made by lawyers about cases they are working on are generally assumed to have immunity in this regard.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kesha’s attorneys said that including these statements in Luke’s ongoing defamation action “would chill rape and domestic violence victims from reporting to authorities or filing a complaint out of fear that they will be sued for exercising their litigation right”.

However, judge Jennifer Schecter disagreed, saying that the statements were relevant to Luke’s key allegation of a smear campaign. She said that it had never been a secret that his legal team planned to present various public statements in their case and therefore “Kesha cannot reasonably claim to have lacked notice that her liability is potentially predicated, in part, on [her team’s] conduct”.

If and when the case gets to trial, the judge went on, it could possibly be concluded that “the California complaint was a sham maliciously filed solely to defame plaintiffs as part of Kesha’s alleged campaign to destroy [Luke] as leverage to renegotiate her contracts”.

“The proposed allegations are transactionally related to those in the [amended complaint] and are not palpably insufficient or patently lacking in merit”, said the judge, dismissing the motion to strike presented by Kesha’s lawyers.

This latest ruling doesn’t really move the case any closer to trial, but is a significant win for Team Luke.